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Council adopts plan to make land available for neighborhood “farms”

Summary

Focus of Community Garden Program is partnership between County, neighborhood groups

Story

The Metropolitan King County Council gave its unanimous approval today to a plan that would create partnerships between the County and community groups that want to “till the soil.” The County’s Community Garden Program Implementation Plan would give community groups access to County parcels that they would manage and cultivate for gardens.

“Throughout King County people are recognizing the health, environmental, and financial benefits of fresh, locally grown produce and turning to community gardening,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips, prime sponsor of the ordinance. “This legislation addresses the challenge of finding available land for community gardens in urban areas by providing access to suitable county property, putting these publicly-owned spaces to good use for communities.”

“Community gardens are enjoyable way to bring neighborhoods together,” said Council Vice Chair Jane Hague. “It’s also an eco-friendly, cost-effective way to utilize excess County-owned land. I’m really looking forward to seeing future gardens appear on the Eastside.”

“The Board of Health is always looking for ways to increase access to healthy foods, so people can make healthy dietary choices. Community gardens make healthy choices easier for thousands throughout King County,” said Councilmember Joe McDermott, Chair of the King County Board of Health. “I am thrilled to see this plan move forward.”

Community gardens are defined as any land that is gardened by a group of people, allowing citizens to grow their own food for themselves or for the community. Gardeners generally do not own the land, but are very active in the maintenance and management of the garden. Models of community gardens vary; some gardens are farmed collectively with everyone working together, others are spilt into individual plots.

Community gardens are a way for people who don’t own land, including apartment-dwellers, to produce fresh, local, organic produce at a very low cost. In addition to being an important food source for the families and organizations that farm them, community gardens have also become a source of local produce for the wider community—in 2009 the Interbay P-Patch alone donated over 5,000 pounds of produce to the local food bank. In the city of Seattle, over 2,000 people are on a waiting list for P-Patches.

The 2008 Comprehensive Plan required the Executive to develop an inventory of County-owned or managed facilities and properties that could be feasible for use by community gardens. The initial inventory, done with the assistance of a team of students from the University of Washington’s Urban Planning Department, found that the County owns more than 2,000 parcels of land in urban areas. Of those parcels, 24 have been determined to be potential community gardens.

Last year, the Council called on the Executive to develop a plan for creating and managing community gardens on County-owned property. The motion adopted by the Council today accepts the Executive’s plan.

The proposed plan acknowledges the County’s limited financial resources, recommending a program model that leverages the County’s expertise and other potential non-financial contributions. It does not propose that the County be actively involved in creating and managing community gardens, but rather that the County focus on establishing partnerships with community-based organizations and other entities that will take the lead to establish, manage, and sustain the garden sites. King County’s limited role would involve coordinating use agreements and helping to connect interested parties with potential sites on County-owned properties.


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