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The Center for Food in Community and Culture

Category Archive: Community Gardens

Jeffrey Hou on Community Gardens as Hybrid Public Space

Jeffrey Hou

Jeffrey Hou, chair of the Landscape Architecture Department at the University of Washington-Seattle, was on campus on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010 to present a public lecture on his work on Seattle’s community gardens. His presentation expanded upon his 2009 co-authored study, Greening Cities, Growing Communities: Learning from Seattle’s Community Gardens. Dr. Hou began by noting the rapid development of community gardens, nationally and internationally, in the last decade. He began to pointing to Vancouver, BC as one of the leaders in this trend, then focused on Seattle, where the formal community garden program, called the P-Patch Program, was instituted in 1974 and has grown today to 73 garden sites. He related the expansion of community gardens as a public project to the growth in farmers markets, community-supported agriculture, and urban agriculture, and argued that these developments are embedded in larger social movements around food systems, food security, food justice, food sovereignty, food democracy, healthy eating, local food, and urban sustainability.

Jeffrey Hou’s research on community gardens in Seattle focused on six case studies of specific community gardens in Seattle, cases chosen to represent various socioeconomic and demographic characteristics of community gardeners, their land-use patterns, as well as the appearance and functions of the gardens, and particular themes. Among the more significant lessons he and his co-authors–Julie M. Johnson and Laura J. Lawson–learned about the relationship between community gardens and urban sustainability were that community gardens breed activism and grow community. In short, community gardens are more than just gardens. They are also cultural locations, educational sites, gathering places, and public art settings; they reflect the differences among community gardeners. Dr. Hou highlighted their central finding that design matters to all the diverse patterns and functions of community gardens. Community gardens are what he calls “hybrid public space.” That is, they are individual, collective, private, and public. They have multiple uses. They draw on and express multiple cultural and generational practices. They create opportunities for learning. They have multiple stakeholders.

Dr. Hou concluded by explaining that scaling up community gardens will require more institutional and social support-–more staff and resources, not just sites. It will also require the integration with local food systems and urban green infrastructure and the engagement with community and urban planning. A crucial question in the process of scaling up urban agriculture is whether such development can retain the idea of community open space. If so, then we must incentivize community-driven processes, volunteerism, and collective actions. We must recognize the diverse values, practices, and benefits of gardening/farming and insure that community gardens/farms retain their character as “hybrid public space.”

Community Gardens in Brown County: Past, Present, and Future Generations

The Center for Food in Community and Culture sponsored a panel discussion on Community Gardens in Brown County on Wednesday, April 21, 2010 at 7 pm in the Central Library in Green Bay. The panel discussion was to support the One Book, One Community reading selection of Seedfolks, a novel for young adults by Paul Fleishman.

Community Gardens Panelists
Panelists Yia Thao, Sue Huxford, Frank Haney, and Karen Early

Sue Premo of the One Book, One Community committee began the evening with a brief introduction to Seedfolks, which tells the story of how 13 people from diverse cultural heritages and generations came together to create a community garden in a low-income neighborhood in Cleveland. The panel began with Karen Early of UW Brown County Cooperative Extension, who presented the history of the development of community gardens in Brown County from the 1990s to the present outlining their successes and struggles over the years. Frank Haney, from Oneida Nation followed with a presentation of the development of various Tsyunhehkw^ (trans., Life Sustenance) programs, including an organic farm, cannery, and retail store. Yia Thao, Southeast Asian Coordinator for Student Services at NWTC, discussed the role of Hmong elders in community gardens–as farmers and farmers market vendors. Sue Huxford who teaches English Language Learners at West High School in Green Bay wrapped up the panel discussion by sharing her experience teaching the book Seedfolks and community gardening in Portland, Oregon. The audience of about 40 people had many points to discuss, especially about how we can improve the nutritional quality of school meals and the health of children through school gardening programs.

Lynn Walter was moderator for the Community Gardens Panel Discussion on April 21. Sue Premo of the One Book, One Community Committee introduced the book Seedfolks, which is their reading selection for this year. Here are a couple of PowerPoint slides from the evening that illustrate the connection between food security, culture, and environment.
Audience Community Gardens Poster Sue Premo
Audience, panel, and moderator, Lynn Walter
Poster for Community Gardens Panel
Sue Premo