5 Greencredible Cities for Urban Gardeners
Green space can be hard to find amidst grey urban jungles, especially as cities grow. But for those whose green thumbs start itching when they’re away from fertilizer too long, it’s important to find a city with some soil to kneel in. In many cities, urban gardening often takes the form of community gardens – gardens tended to by local residents with the intention of providing fresh produce for themselves or others.
Seeing the value in healthy and community-oriented residents, some cities have included community gardens in their budgets or even dedicated entire programs to their support. In others, local nonprofits fill this role. If you don’t have access to a garden of your own due to space restrictions, community gardening is a great option. Here are five cities leading the way on community gardening.
Nestled at the edge of the Rocky Mountains, Denver isn’t the first place that comes to mind for gardening. But don’t let the snowy winters fool you — Denver is a hotbed of community gardening efforts, with a history of community gardening stretching back more than a century.
Nonprofit Denver Urban Gardens (DUG), supports over 155 community gardens in the city. The organization helps with securing land and funding for new gardens, designing garden layouts, and handling promotion and outreach. DUG also supports over 40 school-based gardens, along with educational programs. Any Denver resident can apply to start their own community garden with DUG, who offers support and assistance with setup.
For anyone who knows Austin, it will come as no surprise that the city loves its fresh, locally grown produce. A collection of city-supported community gardens produce an estimated 100,000 pounds of food each year for residents. The city’s Sustainable Urban Agriculture and Community Garden Program (SUACG) was established in 2009 and has since striven to simplify the process of setting up a community garden.
Beyond city efforts, Austin boasts a variety of community garden organizations. Supported by SUACG, the Coalition of Austin Community Gardens’ main goal is education with the intent of establishing more gardens around the city. Sunshine Community Gardens in north central Austin provides three acres of land for community gardens, and South Austin Community Gardens offer a number of plots for south Austin residents.
Like Austin, Portland is a mecca for organic, sustainably grown food – and community gardens definitely play a part. Portland’s Parks and Recreation department is directly responsible for managing its 51 community gardens — citizens can apply for current plots or request entirely new gardens. As a subset of these gardens, Produce for People (PFP) is a program that provides community-grown food to hungry Portlanders – producing 42,000 pounds of food for donations last year.
The city’s community gardening program was founded in 1975 and has massive support and approval from residents. Friends of Portland Community Gardens was founded in 1985 to support local gardens after budgetary cutbacks, and continues its support today. GrowPortland hosts five gardening sites and provides school gardening education. Oregon Solutions’ Portland Community Gardens program added 150 more plots in 2010, raised over $1 million in capital, and brought in $150,000 from the city all in an effort to expand the community gardening in Portland. It’s safe to say that Portland residents love their gardening.
In Seattle, the P-Patch program represents the majority of the city’s community gardening efforts. Named after the man whose property hosted Seattle’s first community garden, Rainie Picardo, the program features 88 gardens over 15 acres spread throughout the city. P-Patch is one of Seattle’s main city programs, with goals ranging from increased civic engagement to feeding the hungry. In 2014, P-Patch gardens provided over 41,000 pounds of food to area food banks and programs.
Despite its cooler climate, the city of Milwaukee provides strong support for its community gardens. The city offers free garden permits to anyone who wants to establish a community garden in an empty lot by their home. This policy has produced scores of gardens and community garden organizations.
Milwaukee Urban Gardens manages over 90 community gardens (many in vacant lots) and recently merged with local nonprofit Groundwork Milwaukee in order to expand their efforts. The city’s Urban Ecology Center manages 35 garden plots and 42 raised garden beds as well. Finally, the Victory Garden Initiative focuses on helping communities grow their own food, basing its name on similar programs during World War II.
While community gardens aren’t the only way to get your thumb green when you’re surrounded by gray, they are an excellent place to start. If you can’t move to one of these cities, check with yours to see if you can establish your own urban garden. You will quickly learn that nothing tastes better than food you grew yourself.