A community garden is being planned for a plot of unused land on the grounds of the Aqua New York water company on Prospect Avenue in Sea Cliff, according to members of a local food cooperative.
“We had the idea for a storefront and experimented with that for a year, but we found it to be too labor-intensive,” said Amy Peters, president of the board of directors for the Sustainable Sea Cliff Cooperative.
The store was run out of a member’s garage. When it closed, the two-year-old organization returned to its original “buying club” model, in which members order food as a group in order to be economical and to target the sort of food they want.
Peters said her group focuses on sustainably raised meats and produce, and aims to source its purchases from local organic food producers as much as possible. A community garden would enable members to grow their own food.
While the cooperative operates for profit, Peters said they realized the garden would need to not be and would have to be legally split from the organization itself.
She said they are considering several options. The group could apply for non-profit status, but Peters said that could take as long as two years to obtain. Another option is partnering with an organization that is already a non-profit, which would act as an umbrella and give the cooperative all the applicable privileges and protections.
A third option is using a fiscal sponsor, such as the North Shore Land Alliance or the Open Space Institute, groups which work to preserve open space on Long Island. However, Peters said this avenue could surrender some of the cooperative’s autonomy.
With ownership shared among each of the organization’s members, the decision process is democratic. Peters said the options are still being researched.
“We still would like to be an organization that puts value on fair wages and fair trade,” she said.
While the legal process could take longer, Peters said she hopes the infrastructure for the garden will be laid by the end of summer.
Aqua New York, Inc. is a private water supply company serving Oyster Bay and Hempstead towns. Peters said the company would let the cooperative use the land for free, as well as half of an old building on the premises which she said would be used for storage of tools. The agreement would grant the company certain tax benefits, she said.
Membership in the cooperative ranges from $75 to $150 - less for students and seniors and more for families. There are currently 68 memberships.
Members will be attending the Small Farm Summit at Hofstra University on April 14, which will offer a wealth of information about the kind of projects the cooperative is involved in.