Community Gardens
Neighbors Growing Together

Community Gardens

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day.
Teach him how to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

Community gardens have a long and honorable history. In this century alone, they have surfaced on a large-scale nationwide basis during both World War I (In 1918 "War Gardens" produced a crop valued at $520 million) and World War II (Victory Gardens).

What is a Community Garden?

A plot of land owned by the city, a non-profit organization, a company, a homeowners association, or a generous private owner, is set aside for the use of nearby residents on a community basis. Community gardeners work together to prepare the garden, set up a watering system, work the soil, and determine the location of individual plots. Group purchasing can reduce the cost of seeds, tools, fertilizers and other necessities.

Individuals "lease" their own plots, frequently at no charge, occasionally for a nominal $10-$25 year fee which goes to support the program. They receive all the food grown on their own plot, although the group may have an arrangement to set aside a percentage of the crop - perhaps 10% - to be sold at farmers markets on behalf of the entire project, or to be given to food banks or other causes.

Community gardens are in place throughout the country. One of the best known is Seattle's "P-Patch" program, which has over 1700 plots on 16 acres of gardens used by over 4500 urban gardeners. Special programs serve low-income, disabled, youth and non-English speaking populations. These organic gardens provide 7-10 tons of produce to Seattle food banks every year, and many more tons for the people who work them.

Would this work in the Napa Valley?

It already does. The City of American Canyon set up a community garden five years ago. The two-acre garden is used by as many as 35 people each year to grow flowers and vegetables. The standard plot is 6' x 12' and costs $25 per year. This covers use of the land, water, and the city's tilling and preparing the soil each winter.

Condominium developments in Napa and Yountville also have community gardens, maintained by members of their homeowners associations, and the City of Calistoga is considering the idea.

The city of Napa has small vacant lots or little-used patches of city property that could be used for such a purpose. Members of the local "Master Gardeners" group are ready to offer their expertise and guidance to such a project. And local garden shops would likely contribute, either with seeds and tools, or with discounts.

Community gardening:

  • Helps people who may be in poor financial circumstances produce at least some of their own food
  • Provides healthy and nutritious food
  • Provides the satisfaction of working the earth and growing one's own food
  • Brings members of a neighborhood together
  • Develops skills that will last a lifetime
  • Provides an opportunity for people of all ages to work together
  • Provides an opportunity for senior citizens to pass on their gardening skills to younger generations.