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Growing Bridges: Community Gardens and Civic Governments

MonteraySketchbook image by Anthony Zierhut. The Monterey Road Eco-Community Garden opening. Larger image here.

By Alex Chisholm
A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts of Leadership
2008 – 150 pages


Community gardens and other forms of urban agriculture (UA) make vital contributions to the environmental sustainability, food security, and economic prosperity of urban life. Community gardens also improve cities’ social, recreational, and aesthetic qualities. Yet growers continue to struggle for access to land and mechanisms to expand agriculture within cities. An umbrella organization that advocates and negotiates for land access and favourable government policies on behalf of growers could be an effective tool for increasing UA within the City of Vancouver.

Acting as an intermediary, an umbrella organization could navigate the requirements of civic administrators and other land stewards on behalf of growers. This research engaged community garden and UA stakeholders, and the City of Vancouver Social Policy unit in an action research project to examine civic systems and the intermediary socio-political functions an umbrella garden organization could perform to increase agriculture in the City of Vancouver.

Introduction Chapter Summary

UA and community gardens have an important, though perhaps still somewhat undervalued, role to play in the urban environment. Nonetheless, awareness of the environmental, recreational, social development, and food security benefits is generating a growing acceptance of community gardens. In order to stimulate the growth of new community garden developments, community organizers and other key stakeholders are rallying to find solutions. Creating an umbrella organization that can bridge the civic system with garden organizers is being considered by some groups. This umbrella organization could help spearhead the development of new community gardens. This research project took on the challenge to understand how an umbrella organization might work and how it might interface with the city. With the City of Vancouver’s Social Policy unit as the organization sponsoring this research, I engaged the community to help me understand what an umbrella organization might effectively do to help build new gardens. In support of this research a review of the literature on UA and community gardens follows.

See synopsis pdf here.

See complete thesis pdf here.

1 comment

1 kcastelo { 01.29.10 at 3:31 pm }

Hello Alex, what a fascinating thesis you have here. I’d be interested in learning where you go from here! I was particularly inspired by your addendum on the aesthetics and mystery of a garden that pulls people in to explore further!