This page provides an overview of urban agriculture and community gardening for local governments in Washington State, including local examples and recommended resources.
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) (2003) 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.
Local Community Garden Programs
Many communities in Washington have community gardens, including quite a few small jurisdictions as well as many of the largest. Below are some examples:
Interlocal Agreements and Contracts
Community Gardens and Youth
Gardening in Public Right-of-Way
- Seattle: 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.
- Washington Department of Health: Growing Nourishing Food Systems (2013) - Guide to help local governments encourage healthy eating, including examples of comprehensive plan elements and zoning provisions encouraging urban agriculture (see pages 15-17).
- American Community Gardening Association - Organization encourages community gardening across the U.S. and Canada
- National Recreation and Park Association: Community Gardens: Strategies & Resources (2011) - Special Parks and Recreation magazine supplement
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Local Foods and Communities - Resources related to urban agriculture and community gardening
- Urban Land Institute: Urban Agriculture: Practices to Improve Cities (2011)
- Brooklyn Botanic Garden: Community Gardening - For-purchase publication
- Greening Cities, Growing Communities: Learning from Seattle's Urban Community Gardens, by Jeffrey Hou, Julie M. Johnson, and Laura J. Lawson, University of Washington Press with Landscape Architecture Foundation, 2009. (Available through MRSC Library Loan)
- Urban Agriculture: Growing Healthy, Sustainable Places, by Kimberley Hodgson, Marcia Caton Campbell, and Martin Bailkey (PAS 563), American Planning Association, 2010 (Available through MRSC Library Loan)