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Urban Agriculture - Community Gardening


The focus of this page is to provide background resources for Washington local government policy makers on opportunities to enhance sustainability by encouraging gardening in urban settings. Resources selected present links to information on the topics of sustainability, food resources and health communities. The page includes examples of community gardening and youth gardening programs, and land use policies.

About Urban Agriculture and Community Gardening

According to the USDA, around 15 percent of the world's food is now grown in urban areas. City and suburban agriculture takes the form of backyard, roof-top and balcony gardening, community gardening in vacant lots and parks, roadside urban fringe agriculture and livestock grazing in open space.

Community gardens promote healthy communities and provide food security for many low income persons. In an urban setting, community gardens are part of the open space network. The gardens and those who participate in community gardening contribute to the preservation of open space, provide access to it, and create sustainable uses of the space. Community gardens strengthen community bonds, provide food, and create recreational and therapeutic opportunities for a community. They can also promote environmental awareness and provide community education.

One of the goals to create healthy communities is to improve nutrition in the community as a whole. These strategies are described in the Washington State Nutrition and Physical Activity Plan (NPASP) developed by DOH and its partners. Washington's strategic plan has among its objectives increasing access to health promoting foods. An example is increasing the availability of and access to local community gardens.

At the national level is USDA's People's Garden Initiative. People's Gardens vary in size and type, but all are required to have three components in common. They must benefit the community, in some cases by creating recreational spaces and in others by providing a harvest for a local food bank or shelter. They must be collaborative - that is, the garden must be created and maintained by a partnership of local individuals, groups, or organizations. And third, they should incorporate sustainable practices.

Public community garden programs are generally administered by the community development or parks department. In Seattle the city-wide community gardening program is under the Department of Neighborhoods. Other gardening programs involve public and private schools and other institutions. Some jurisdictions are changing policies to encourage residents to plant vegetables and other edible foods and allow a limited number of farm animals, such as chickens in the city.

Community Garden Programs

Community gardens exist, or are being built, in many Washington communities. Here is a list of cities that have community gardens, some are nonprofits, but receive some funding from the city, some do not have websites. Anacortes, Bellevue Community Gardens and Farms, Bellingham, Bonney Lake, Bremerton, Clark County Community Gardens, Coupeville, Davenport, Duvall, Langley, Kittitas County Food Access Coalition, Mukilteo, Puyallup, Sammamish, Redmond, Tacoma, Thurston County Community Gardens, Westport. A few have been highlighted below.

Interlocal Agreements and Contracts for Gardens

  • Anacortes and Anacortes School District interlocal agreement for Community Garden at Anacortes Middle School, May 2013
  • Bonney Lake agreement with Bonney Lake Community Resources (BLCR) for operation of the Bonney Lake Community Garden for BLCR patrons and the Senior Center on city property for 2013.
  • Tumwater Service Provider Agreement with Garden Raised Bounty (GRub), for Kitchen Garden Project 2010 - GRuB s Kitchen Garden Project will build at least 10 complete vegetable gardens for low income people living in the City of Tumwater during the year 2010, contract is renewable. See also GRub Website

Community Gardens and Youth

  • GRub Youth Programs - Garden-Raised Bounty (GRuB) is a nonprofit working to empower people and grow good food in Thurston and Mason counties. Among its programs, it provides agriculture-based education, employment and dropout programs for youth. In partnership with the Olympia School District, GRuB is currently planning a pilot project with Olympia High School.
  • Seattle Youth Garden Works - Job skills training program for youth
  • Youth Gardening, American Horticulture Association

School Gardens

Gardening in Public Right-of-Way

  • Seattle Department of Transportation: Gardening in Planting Strips (2011, Client Assistance Memo 2305) - Residents may garden in planting strips without a street use permit, provided the planting meets height and setback requirements. Street use permit is required for trees or hardscape elements such as raised beds.

Zoning and Policy

Sample Zoning and Policy Provisions Washington Local Governments

Resources for Urban Agriculture and Community Gardening


Last Modified: October 17, 2016