How does community gardening benefit our food system?

 What is community gardening?  There are numerous models of community gardening, but at its core community gardening involves the community coming together to grow and share food.  A community garden is a space where neighbors come together to grow community and steward – plan, plant, and maintain –a piece of open space.  Community gardens are gathering places that strengthen networks through cooperative ventures; a source of pride among residents; a visible product of land stewardship and a healthier urban environment.

Community Gardening has long been related to community grass root efforts sprung out of nessessity.  After all food and community are fundamental to life for human beings.  The community gardening movement took root in America as far back as the 1800’s with efforts around vacant land and helping put people to work, eat, connect children to gardening, civic engagement and in times of war and is still with us today for all the same reasons.

Seattle has a long history of community gardening.  It follows the same path as the national history, but with one major exception. Seattle’s community gardening program has been municipally funded throughout its 39-year history and is a program of the City of Seattle, Department of Neighborhoods.  The P-Patch Community Gardening program also enjoys a great relationship with the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods Matching Fund Program, which has been helping fund the development of P-Patches and other Seattle urban community gardens for the past 24 years.  These unique factors combine to make Seattle one of the most community gardening friendly cities in the nation.  Community gardening activities in Seattle foster neighborhood identity, cultural expression, entrepreneurial training, giving, sharing, and education.

What are some of the benefits of community gardening?

  • Connection to nature and where our food comes from
  • Environmental education
  • Chance to grow food for your table
  • Continue cultural traditions and share food across cultures
  • Grow an urban food community
  • Campanionship, community interaction, intergenerational connections, and teamwork
  • Community Gardens grow to give back through giving gardens
  • Exercise, health nutrition, build self-esteem and skills
  • Income generation
  • Empowerment

Grassroot Community Gardening Efforts Happening in Seattle:

What is a P-Patch? P-Patch is the name given to community gardens that are managed by the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods P-Patch Community Gardening Program. The name, P-Patch, originated from its first community garden, Picardo Farm. Gardens come in many shapes, sizes, and ownerships (For more Facts about P-Patch Community Gardens: Detailed Fact Sheet)

  • Traditional family plots: Most P-Patch community gardens function like allotment gardens.  There are small pieces of land stewarded on an annual basis to grow food, herbs and flowers.  In exchange for the privilege of gardening, gardeners must give back though volunteer time, maintain spaces assigned, and stay in good standing in the shared areas of the garden space.  No one is turned away for their ability to pay.  All family plot gardens are open to the public to visit, enjoy, and learn.
  • Orchards and Food Forests (perennial agriculture): Supporting new community efforts around community gardening is at the foundation of the P-Patch Program. The newest community effort, the Beacon Food Forest, is being supported by the P-Patch Program. 
  • Giving Gardens: Almost all P-Patch community gardens have space for donating and volunteer to donate from family plots.  The city in partnership with Lettuce Link and gardeners donated 20,809 pounds of produce in 2011, equaling 41,616 servings and a value of $46,404.00.
  • Collectives: In an effort to allow for different models of community gardening in denser areas of the city, the program is working with gardens like the Howell Collective to increase options for communities engaged in community gardening.
  • In addition, the program facilitates and partners around: market gardening and youth gardening. These programs serve all citizens of Seattle but with an emphasis on low-income, immigrant populations and youth.         
  • P-Patch Trust

The P-Patch Trust not for profit, builds healthy and diverse communities by fostering community gardens, urban farms and green spaces.  This is accomplished through public engagement, partnerships, leadership development, advocacy, and land acquisition.  The P-Patch Trust advocates for community gardens and incubates new programs, owns six gardens, provides scholarships for low income gardeners, serves as fiscal sponsor for 37 gardens, provides tools and publishes the P-Patch Post, the community gardening newsletter.

Alleycat Acres is an urban farming collectivethat aims to reconnect people with food. To achieve this, they create community-run farms on under utilized urban spaces through community partnerships. They have 3 community gardens growing in Seattle.

Clean Greens is a small nonprofit organization, owned and operated by residents of Seattle’s Central District. They are committed to growing and delivering clean and healthy produce for everyone at reasonable prices. 

Green Plate Special (GPS) is a cooking and food-growing nonprofit program, supporting the nutritional and physical health of middle school youth, primarily low income. As an after-school, field trip and holiday-camp program, we teach young people how to grow, tend, harvest and cook healthy whole foods in a home-garden and home-kitchen setting. Our focus is on technique and skill building, rather than recipe focused cooking.

Seattle Tilth inspires and educates people to grow food organically, conserve natural resources and support local food systems in order to cultivate a healthy urban environment and community. Along with many wonderful educational opportunities, Seattle Tilth is helping to make many community driven programs flourish.

  • Community Kitchens Northwest: Community Kitchens NW (CKNW) brings people together to prepare food and share it. Everyone gets involved in the food preparation, cooking and cleaning, and then we all eat a meal together. Some kitchens cook for the purpose of taking home ready-to-eat meals. In addition to leaving a community kitchen with food in-hand or a full belly, participants gain cooking skills, fresh ideas, nutrition awareness, and perhaps best of all, new friends.
  • Seattle Tilth Farm Works: Farm Works offers business training and support to immigrants, refugees and people with limited financial resources in South King County. Farm Works participants attend farm and business trainings, tour neighboring farm operations, and gain hands-on experience growing and harvesting food using organic practices.
  • Seattle Youth Garden Works: Seattle Youth Garden Works empowers homeless and underserved youth through garden-based education and employment. 


City Fruit is reclaiming the urban orchard, showing people how to harvest and use what they need, and to share the rest with others.  City Fruit promotes the cultivation of urban fruit in order to nourish people, build community and protect the climate.  In addition they help tree owners grow healthy fruit, provide assistance in harvesting and preserving fruit, promote the sharing of extra fruit, and work to protect urban fruit trees.

The Just Garden Project builds a just food system and a culture of gardening for all people. They do this by building gardens, educating gardeners, celebrating our community and engaging youth in work with individuals and communities. 

Parks Good Food programs are a hub of activities that are relevant and timely for every community in Seattle; access to healthy food, opportunities for active recreation, and environmental awareness.

  • Food Justice Project
    Food Justice is the right of communities everywhere to produce, distribute, access, and eat good food regardless of race, class, gender, ethnicity, citizenship, ability, religion, or community. Good food is healthful, local, sustainable, culturally appropriate, humane, and produced for the sustenance of people and the planet.  Community Education focus includes Teach-Outs supporting and visiting local food sites, and publication of Our Food, Our Right, a handbook combining hands-on tools for change with community recipes and political awareness to engage YOU in joining in the struggle for food justice!
  • Rainer Valley Eats
    The Rainier Valley Eats! Coalition believes that healthy food is a basic human right. We recognize that the ability to access healthy food is related to multiple issues and not just a result of low income.  We are taking a holistic approach to achieve real change in our community’s access to healthy food.

As you can see there is an abundance of community based solutions around food in our community.  I apologize if I missed anyone, if I did, please add the wonderful work you are doing around community based gardening and food production.  If you are not yet involved within your own community, I encourage you to join in the fun.