Journal of the NACAA
ISSN 2158-9429
Volume 3, Issue 1 - July, 2010

Editor:

Development of and Client Satisfaction at a New Community Garden

Beddes, T.B., Horticulture Extension Agent, Utah State University
Steven, K., Assistant Director of Utah Conservation Corps, Utah State University

ABSTRACT

Community gardening continues to gain in popularity nationwide. Nationally, many reasons exist for this. They include participantís desire to: 1) improve diets; 2) reduce stress, and 3) save money. However, organizing a community garden presents challenges in some areas including locating a site, establishing insurance, and raising money to develop infrastructure. These challenges were overcome at a new community garden in Cache County, Utah. Land-wise, the garden is the largest in Utah located on over 2 acres. In its initial year 23 plots were leased. One year later leased plots increased to 75. Participantsí needs and demographics are gauged using anonymous surveying before and after each growing season. On average, 42% respond to these surveys. Needs assessment reveals local participants garden for similar reasons others do nationally, where 76% lack land for gardening and want to improve their diet and 67% desire to reduce food costs. Additionally, survey results indicate 82% felt gardening reduced stress and 80% had an enjoyable experience. Educational gardening classes were regularly taught, with over 100 individuals, 25% being garden participants. Further, adaptive gardening, for those of various abilities, is taught using newly constructed raised beds. In 2009, 63 individuals attended these workshops. Additional education development is a priority and opportunities will increase as the garden development continues.

INTRODUCTION

Community gardening attracts attention nationally due to an unstable economy, a desire to improve the diet, increased environmental awareness, a lack of available land to garden and stress reduction (Armstrong, 2000; Hanna and Oh, 2000; Patel, 1991). In Cache County, Utah, a new garden was organized in 2007. After an extensive search for an appropriate site that was accessible, that had available irrigation water and that could be used at low or no cost, St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church donated 2 acres of land with irrigation rights in Hyde Park, Utah. This is significant because according to a formula developed by the USDA, community gardeners potentially could produce between $48,787 and $60,984 annually (Patel, 1991). Utah State University (USU) Extension signed a 10-year, no-cost lease with the church, and the county horticulture agent agreed to manage day-to-day operation and financial concerns of the garden. Others involved in organization and development included The Utah Conservation Corps, Master Gardeners, local businesses and parishioners.

METHODS (GARDEN DEVELOPMENT)

Infrastructure Development

After finding an appropriate location, a volunteer management committee with experienced development was established. Members included:

  • Representatives from St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church
  • The local Master Gardener Chapter President
  • The Cache County USU Extension horticulture agent
  • An irrigation engineer
  • The Assistant Director of The Utah Conservation Corps (a part of AmeriCorps)

Funding sources for development included internal grants from USU Extension and private donations of cash, materials and labor.

Concerning insurance, it was found the garden had existing coverage through USU and the Catholic Church where coverage from the church existed due to it owning the property and from USU due to it being a primary sponsoring organization. Reportedly, obtaining insurance may be difficult (ACGA, 2010).

The Irrigation system was designed and installed by Keller-Bliesner Irrigation and Mardell Parish, a local irrigation contractor. Steps in construction included installation of an irrigation pump and running over 300 feet of 6 inch pressurized irrigation pipe to the garden. Impact sprinklers were the most economical water distribution method and cover the entire 2 acres. Additionally, hose bibs were installed within reach of every plot.

Policies and Procedure Development

To maximize the experience of participants, a fact sheet published by the American Community Gardening Association (ACGA) concerning development was consulted (available at: http://communitygarden.org/docs/starting_a_community_garden7-06.pdf). Additionally, input from a number of groups and individuals, including other regional community garden organizations and local garden participants, were used to determine plots sizes, fees and policies (Ervine et al, 1999). The following guidelines were established:

Raised Bed Construction for People with Disabilities

It was important to provide accessibility to as many people as possible at the new garden. In 2008, raised bed designs were developed by a subcommittee whose members included:

  • A landscape architecture graduate student
  • A Utah Conservation Corps (UCC) mixed ability crew
  • Local gardeners of various abilities

Three unique bed designs meeting the needs of people with different types of abilities were developed. These included a tabletop planter that can be wheeled under, a second that can be transferred onto from a sitting position and a third that enables individuals to garden directly from their chair.

The three raised bed designs developed for use by those of limited abilities.

Finished raised beds are all approximately 3 feet in width and all beds cumulatively encompass over 700 square feet. Materials were obtained from local businesses that willingly donated or sold supplies at wholesale.

Marketing

Marketing was a priority but little money existed to fund it. To offset this, press releases authored by committee members were distributed by USU Extension Marketing to local media outlets including radio stations, a community access channel and newspapers. Additionally, information was provided to online and printed community calendars. Inexpensive pamphlets, paid for by grants obtained from USU Extension, were distributed to local charitable and community organizations, religious groups and businesses.

Needs Assessment

Training and certification from the USU Internal Review Board was obtained before the community garden project commenced. Gardeners’ needs and demographics were assessed starting in the spring of 2008, primarily using the forms feature in Google Documents (www.docs.google.com) and SurveyMonkey (www.surveymonkey.com). These free tools allowed for creation of simple surveys and needs assessment tools, where respondents couldquickly and anonymously respond. Participants were polled both spring and fall. Questions included:

  • Why are you currently or did you previously rent a plot?
    • Save money
    • Improve my diet
    • Environmental awareness
    • Enjoyment/stress reduction
    • Lack of access to land for gardening
  • Have you previously participated in community gardening?
  • Approximately how far away do you live from the garden?
  • Have you participated in any organized community garden classes?
  • If so, what topics did you participate in?
    • Soil management
    • Vegetable gardening
    • Pest control
    • Fruit tree management
    • Season extending gardening methods
    • Other
  • What educational topics are you most interested in?
    • Soil management
    • Vegetable gardening
    • Pest control
    • Fruit tree management
    • Season extending gardening methods
    • Other
  • What is your employment status?
    • Fulltime
    • Part time
    • Unemployed
    • Student
    • Retired
    • Other
  • What is your age?
    • 18-29
    • 30-39
    • 40-49
    • 50-59
    • 60+
  • What is your annual household income?
    • 0-$9,999
    • $10,000-$19,999
    • $20,000-$29,999
    • $30,000-$39,999
    • $40,000-$49,999
    • $50,000-$59,999
    • $60,000+

Education

Education has been a major focus at the garden as it is at other gardens in other gardens (Twiss et al, 2003). Workshops offered include general vegetable gardening, soil management and season-extending gardening methods. An additional class was offered in 2009 on adaptive gardening for those with disabilities and utilized the raised beds.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSIONS

Gardening Begins

In 2008, only 23 garden plots were leased in order to keep unforeseen infrastructure problems to a minimum. A primary concern was the extensive irrigation system. During testing before gardening began, pipe breaks occurred, the irrigation pump malfunctioned and clogged overhead sprinklers were found. These challenges were systematically overcome.

In the first year of gardening, it was additionally determined that:

  • Irrigating to a depth of 6 inches two to three times weekly provided sufficient moisture for most crops. If plots needed additional irrigation, water was provided using hose irrigation by the gardener.
  • Onsite composting was not practical due to the high volumes of green waste generated. Between ½ and 1 cubic yard of material is created annually per plot. Alternatively, green waste is periodically removed by the Logan City/Cache County sanitation department and recycled.

Demographics and Needs Assessment

Approximately 43% of gardeners have responded to online needs assessment. Of these, only 10% participated in past community gardens. Results further showed those using the local garden do so for similar reasons others do nationally. These include: stress reduction, lack of available land to garden, and to save money, where 58% of those reporting earn less than $30,000 annually. Dietary improvement was additionally listed as important. Specific results pertaining to why gardeners participated are included in Table 1.

Table 1. Reasons given for using the Cache Valley Community Garden

Reduce Stress or for Enjoyment

Lack of Access to Land

Dietary Improvement

Improve Economic Situation

Environmental Awareness

82 %

76%

76%

67%

18%

Other demographic survey results indicate participants live an average of 4.5 miles from the garden and ethnicities of participants include 85% Caucasian, 8% Latino/Hispanic and 7% Asian. These percentages closely match population statistics for Cache County, Utah as reported by the US Census Bureau (2010).

General Garden Plots and Accessible Raised Beds

For 2008 and 2009 seasons 92% of plots were maintained the entire growing season, 7% were never planted and 80% of gardeners expressed satisfaction with the plot or raised-bed size. The most commonly grown crops are included in table 2.

Table 2. Most commonly grown crops at the Cache Valley Community Garden
Crop
Plots Containing Specific Crop (%)
Tomatoes
63
Peppers
44
Corn
44
Summer Squash
42
Potatoes
31
Beans
31
Cucumbers
30
Winter Squash
27
Onions
23
Peas
22
Various Melons
22
Carrots
19

In the spring of 2009, 30% of raised-beds were completed and leased. An assortment of vegetables were grown including carrots, tomatoes, squash, melons, potatoes and Swiss chard. The remaining raised beds were completed by fall 2009. Thorough data will be kept concerning bed use in 2010.

Marketing

In 2009, the garden was highlighted in two different feature articles in the Herald Journal, a local newspaper with a readership of over 18,000, and on the Jenny Christiansen Show on KVNU, a local talk radio station. Additionally, the local media covered a service project for the garden held in May, 2009 where over 100 local residents, over 20 Boy Scouts, and multiple members of different religious organizations participated. Marketing success helped increased the number of garden plots leased from 23 in 2008 to 73 in 2009. As of June 1, 2010, over 80 general plots have been leased. This is more than a three-fold increase since 2008.

Community Gardener Satisfaction

Survey results show that over 82% of gardeners agree that their individual plots met their needs and 83% report growing their own vegetables improved the nutritional quality of their diets. Additionally, where gardeners were interested in home food preservation, almost 85% reported that they raised enough produce to enable them to process it for home storage. Eighty one percent of gardeners report that they would consider using the community garden in future years. Forty percent of gardeners report that participating in the community garden has been financially beneficial to them.

One area of concern expressed by some gardeners was the walking surfaces in the garden. After irrigation events, the soil is often slippery, making travel temporarily difficult. To remedy this, wood chips were periodically to create a firmer walking surface. Another issue expressed was the irrigation system. Due to design anomalies, it had to be shut down several times for repair but was functional with 24 hours on being shut down.

Education

Twenty-four percent of the community garden participants attended general gardening educational workshops in 2009. These were taught in the evening in a hands-on basis. Of these, 72% were satisfied or extremely satisfied and applied what they learned. An adaptive gardening seminar was taught by an outside organization and had 63 attend. Satisfaction results are not available for this. Assessment will be improved in 2010 to better determine needs of gardeners.

New for 2010, Master Gardeners planted a demonstration garden with vegetables and plants grown for cut flowers. A demonstration orchard, comprising 30 trees, was installed in 2007 containing multiple species. Along with the fruit tree crop, Master Gardeners and other volunteers planted strawberries, tomatoes, raspberries and corn that will be used for demonstration and later sold fresh and as value added products at a local gardeners market to research if income can be generated by growing crops in a limited area. This information will be extended to participants and the general public through publications, classes and other presentations.

DISCUSSIONS AND CONCLUSIONS

From the hard work of many, a successful garden has been established. The experience of gardeners has been positive and the number of participants has increased annually. In total more than $60,000 has been raised in grants, financial donations, labor and materials. This shows positive support from local citizens and has allowed for development and improvement of the location.

In the fall of 2010, a paved pathway better linking the garden with the church and a nearby bus stop will be constructed. Additionally, a straw bale greenhouse/education structure is planned to better facilitate learning. The accessible pathway will enable gardeners who cannot drive to independently visit the garden using public transportation.


LITERATURE CITED

American Community Gardening Association. 2008. Starting a community garden. [Available online at: http://www.communitygarden.org/learn/starting-a-community-garden.php]

Armstrong, D. 2000. A survey of community gardens in upstate New York: Implications for health promotion and community development. Health & Place. 6:319-327.

Hanna, A. and P. Oh. 2000. Rethinking urban poverty: A look at community gardens. Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society. 20(3): 207-216.

Irvine, S., L. Johnson and K. Peters. 1999. Community gardens and sustainability land use planning: A case-study of the Alex Wilson community garden. Local Environment. 4(1)33-46.

Patel, I. 1991. Gardening’s socioeconomic impacts. Journal of Extension. 20(6): 4FEA1. [Available online at: http//www.joe.org/joe/1991winter/a1.php]

United States Census Bureau. 2010. State and county quick facts. [Available online at: http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/49/49005.html]