skip navigation

Community Gardens and Urban Agriculture

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:

City/Town Examples

County Examples

Interlocal Agreements and Contracts

Community Gardens and Youth

School Gardens

Gardening in Public Right-of-Way

In these samples, 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.

Urban Agriculture

Local Examples

Recommended Resources

Last Modified: April 02, 2021