"A president has to be a leader, cheerleader, motivator for board members and set the direction for the future of the organization."
When I was asked to take on the Presidency of the Brooklyn Queens Land Trust (BQLT), I was not sure if I wanted to do it. I come from a family of farmers. My family owns a fair amount of farmland in the South. I do volunteer work for a several different community groups and organizations. I am also a gardener in the Classon Ful-Gate Block Association Community Garden, but all that background does not prepare you for the presidency of a small up and coming not-for-profit organization in an urban area.
A president has to be a leader, cheerleader, motivator for board members and set the direction for the future of the organization. Once the decision was made I realized that the Brooklyn Queens Land Trust have committed and able board members and very committed garden representatives and garden members. It makes the job of the president a little easier. And, I am happy to report that BQLT stand ready to improve and expand its role as the owner of the 32 community gardens conveyed by the Trust for Public Land(TPL), stretching from Park Slope to Bedford Stuyvesant, Fort Greene/Clinton Hill to Flatbush/East New York, from Bushwick in Brooklyn to Cambria Heights, Jamaica, and East Elmhurst in Queens.
We, as community gardeners, will be forever grateful to TPL for stepping up to the plate to save our gardens from the auction block back in 1999. Many gardeners had taken care of their gardens for many years, in some cases, for decades and they organized to save their gardens. The founding gardeners and the garden members are our real heroes. TPL, after ten years, is still there supporting BQLT and we hope to be able to work with TPL for many years to come.
As we go forward, BQLT gardens have proven to be a resource to their neighborhoods by providing open accessible open spaces, growing crops, tending to bee hives, reducing wastes by composting and inviting students of number of different schools into our gardens. There are fish fries, cookouts, garden celebrations, plant sales, holiday celebrations, jazz concerts, birthday parties, weddings and even memorials in our gardens. Gardens are a resource to artists as evidenced in the Open Space Gallery and to Long Island University, which is currently conducting a bee diversity study.
For the future, BQLT has to ensure that it will be a sustainable organization. We have been successful in maintaining a water supply in gardens, making sure that the soil is safe for food crops, stepping in when a garden needs help, paying for insurance, eliminating rodent/rat infestations. But we need not only to have the support of gardeners but also of the larger community including corporate and foundation funders and support by elected officials. We need to reach out to the larger gardening community and embrace better nutrition, health, and education. In that endeavor I hope that all will be part of that journey.
Demetrice Mills, Board President Brooklyn Queens Land Trust.