As the ACGA Board of Directors just finished out their 2015 Winter Board meeting in College Park, GA (the new home of the ACGA), new board member Liat Racin reflects on the importance of organizational wellness and staying true to the mission.

Board members with tractor

ACGA board members posing in front of a tractor at the Metro Atlanta Urban Farm, new home of the ACGA offices.

“A breath of fresh air” is how ACGA’s long-standing board members described the new, on-coming board members at the onset of ACGA’s 2015 Annual Board Meeting in Atlanta, GA February 5-8.

‘What did this ‘breath of fresh air’ mean?’ I asked myself.

As the board meeting commenced and discussions became heated (like any productive board meeting!) the answer became clear to me. As a newcomer to the board, I could provide different ideas, a creative energy and new insight for overcoming some challenges and identifying new opportunities for growth. But as the first day of meetings continued and finally came to an end, I realized that I and other newcomers remained, for the most part, silent.

Into the second day of meetings, we broke out for a five minute break and I walked up to small group of people standing around in a circle.

In what was an oddly natural occurrence, everyone in the small group simultaneously looked at each, noticing our shared ‘newbie’ status, and stated in unison “what really is the ACGA?”

Sure, we all know that the ACGA is affiliated with promoting community gardening and other gardening activities. But what makes the ACGA different than other community gardening organizations? What makes the ACGA special?

I realized that it was this vagueness that allowed silence to reign over our newbie presence at the meetings. We were all in search of a ‘home-base’, a central point to guide us in engaging with decision making activities in relation to planned change processes.

In search for a concrete and lucid answer, one of the newbies took charge. Gathering all of the board members around one big table, she posed this exact same question to the group: who are we?

Indeed, the organization has changed and formed new identities throughout the years. Perhaps this trend reflects the on-going and ever-changing community garden movement, too. But as Board Members, what did we perceive as fundamental, distinctive, and enduring to the ACGA?

Surprisingly, after the exchange of some blank stares and empty words, we collectively searched for a substantive reference point until a clear and solid sense of stability arose over time.

The ACGA draws it strength from a broad spectrum of local grassroots and regional networks of community gardeners and gardening organizations across North America. Through a multi-strategy approach, the ACGA strengthens the resilience of urban gardening and community gardening through facilitation and community building workshops, and the dissemination of up-to-the-date knowledge on policy and gardening trends.

By digging down deep to find ACGA’s roots, we learned that we must be clear with our identity and expressing our core mission so we can be assured to move forward, even under turbulent circumstances.

Renewing a stable sense of ‘who we are’ was a good practice for all of us Board Members, and not only for the newbies.

To making 2015 a year or clarity, strength and success!