GROW is committed to helping enable low-income people to garden, and provides financial support (e.g., paying plot fees, and providing seeds and tools for shared use) for P-Patch gardeners in need. In addition, GROW encourages gardeners to grow food for the hungry, either by contributing some of their own organic produce or by helping with the P-Patch plots designated for growing food for feeding programs. GROW also supports the distribution of tons of P-Patch-raised produce that are delivered to community food banks and shelters. In 2014, the vegetables and fruit donated from P-Patches totaled more than nearly 30,000 pounds. GROW provides support for the 89 P-Patch gardens in the form of volunteer site leader development, assistance with fund-raising projects, fiscal agency services, liability insurance, and small grants for infrastructure (e.g., tool sheds and communal eating spaces). A volunteer-driven organization, GROW also promotes volunteerism: in 2014 volunteers logged about 25,000 hours developing and maintaining the P-Patches, in addition to working their own plots. These contributions are essential because of very limited public funding for the program. GROW works to increase the number of P-Patches and other community gardens and orchards through an array of advocacy activities as well as by providing financial support. The waiting list for P-Patch plots sometimes has 2,000+ names, and is likely to grow with the city’s increasing density. GROW and the Seattle P-Patch Program are uniquely positioned to expand the community gardening effort because they have 40 years of experience in collaborating to build and manage gardens, as well as in nurturing the communities that are created when people come together to grow food.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
A recent success
The Hazel Heights P-Patch on the southwest side of Phinney Ridge serves as an example of the development work required to create a new garden. The property was donated by an anonymous donor. GROW helped organize a neighborhood group that successfully applied for a development grant and raised the additional funds required. The process created a newly strong and cohesive neighborhood as well as a new P-Patch that, because of its view and its unique layout and water-conserving features, has become a gathering place that attracts many visitors. GROW guided the development process and now serves as fiscal agent for the garden, which enables its participants to seek and handle funds for special projects.
A current need
While the Seattle P-Patch Program has new garden sites and more gardeners involved each year, there is no funding for staff to support these changes. The only workable scenario for growing the community gardening program is to recruit and train volunteers to manage many aspects of the 89 P-Patches. GROW has created a first-phase program for volunteer and leadership development, and needs funding to implement and expand the program. The effort is complex because of the many languages spoken by P-Patch gardeners, as well as their widely varying experiences with growing food in Seattle. Many need to garden intensively and successfully to help feed their families. The volunteer/leadership development program requires sophistication about the diverse cultures represented by gardeners, and also sensitivity to the wide variations in the P-Patches: some are mature and thriving sub-cultures with experienced volunteer leadership, while others don’t yet have any identified volunteer leaders and thus will require much more assistance.