Community Gardens Require Density

KSL recently reported on a “farmer without a farm” in Salt Lake City. In a nutshell, the story is about a guy who has no land so he uses other people’s space to grow things that he then sells at farmer’s markets.

While the information in the story itself is pretty minimal, it illustrates an important but oft-overlooked point: communal gardening only works in places with high density housing. In other words, people who generally participate in community gardening opportunities are those finding themselves in situations like the man in the KSL article.

A community garden in Provo. If communities want to encourage community gardening — and I think they should — they also need to encourage development that includes fewer individual gardening spaces.

By contrast, if everyone has their own backyard garden — or at least the space to plant one — there’s very little incentive to participate in community gardens that might require slightly greater investments of time or money.

In my experience, community gardens are a popular idea. They conjure up idyllic images of neighbors planting, harvesting, and communing together. They can obviously provide healthy and inexpensive food. They are places for people to come together. For all of those reasons, I join with others in believing that they should be more common.

But at least in Provo, the presence or absence of community gardens is entirely symptomatic of broader development patterns. Ultimately, if residents want more community gardens, they’ll have to actively encourage denser development.

One of many gardening spaces at my house. Like many people, I have plenty of space to garden at my house so it’s unlikely that I’d have much reason to participate in a community garden.

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3 Comments

Filed under community, Food

3 responses to “Community Gardens Require Density

  1. Pingback: Density Is Needed Everywhere In Provo | (pro(vo)cation)

  2. Thank you for your insights. I agree with you that community gardens are great things and I think every community should have one. However, it does not have to only be in densely populated urban areas. I have been doing community gardening in Holladay for over 7 years. Holladay is probably one of the least densely populated areas in Salt Lake and the response from the community is phenomenal. Many, if not most, of our gardeners have plenty of land for a garden but love the social and educational aspects of communal interaction. Often times, community gardens are just lacking a little in organization and dedication but after one year of a successful season, the gardens take off like the plants growing in them. We will be starting a garden this year in Provo. It is at that same lot in your photo where other dedicated residents gardened last year. We hope to make this year as successful. Stay tuned.

  3. Pingback: Density doesn’t mean eliminating gardens | About Town

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