“The Shoreline Department of Agriculture”. Has a nice ring to it, eh? I first envisioned it for Seattle ten years ago, but there’s no reason it can’t work in Shoreline/Lake Forest Pk too. Why bother? Sustainability, local, fresh food, good hydrology, physical fitness, and local pride, to start.
Sustainability, first, because what food you grow you don’t have to buy and doesn’t have to be shipped in from wherever. Local food for all the reasons I went through in “” and, well how much more local and fresh can you get than your back yard? Good hydrology because these food gardens are likely to , are a great use for all the and encourage attentive watering. Physical fitness because working in a garden is good, mild exercise. Local pride, because this is something you do yourself with your own hands or your neighbors do for you, and it will increase the quality of our community, and that always feels good.
Urban Agriculture is a rising phenomenon all over the place for many good reasons. Detroit has been lauded for its city farmers lately because they are taking back and repurposing formerly abandoned land in destitute areas.
How would it work? The city would develop community gardens like Seattle’s P-Patches. They were started in 1973 on the remnants of the Picardo family farm in the Ravenna neighborhood and are the national model for how to do it. That’s applicable to city property, but for private property incentives to promote food-production would be useful. Eliminating property taxes on food-producing land (not flowers, grass, or exotics, but food) is a nice concept but probably won’t work as the city has control over very little of that.
Administratively perhaps it would be part of Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services, because of its open space mandate or the Community Services Division, which covers Neighborhoods. This organization would foster and support food-growing gardens here, perhaps acting as a clearinghouse for organic fertilizers, seeds, best practices, and the rest, and would confirm compliance and enforce any regulations.
Gardening itself is a skillset available from Seattle Tilth, which has Edible Plant Sales coming up on March 17 and May 5 & 6 and a number of classes to show you what to do with them. The Kruckeberg Botanic Garden doesn’t specialize in food plants, but is strong in general gardening. Sustainable Shoreline advocates for community gardens here. They argue the gardens encourage community organizing, prevent crime, support youth development, produce food, improve health, and create green space.
A community garden can be put anywhere there’s good earth and sunlight, though most sites are small. Prime potential larger sites might be Paramount Park, which has playfields, but also large areas of unpurposed grass. Meridian Park Elementary School and the Children’s Center next to it have lots of nonplayfield grass which could better be used for food. The Fircrest School might be interested in planting some for therapeutic reasons as well.
Many (most) of us don’t know how to garden and may not have the time or want to learn. My thought is that this is actually an opportunity. If we could develop good incentives to convert plain old lawns to production a new job- the contract farmer. This person would go from small plot to small plot on a regular route, like a commercial landscaper, but would be growing things instead of trimming things. In Vancouver, BC urban farming is a growing thing (sorry), but usually doesn’t make enough for the farmer to live on. The contract farmer could till enough land and grow enough food to make it work. Obviously the Shoreline and Lake Forest park Farmers’ Markets will benefit from this, and I can imagine local canning facilities or wholesalers starting up to get the food to market and preserve it for off-season consumption.
So much comes down to budgets, I know, but park land in community gardens would have almost no maintenance cost, so that would count toward their cost/benefit ledger. The rest of it I don’t know for sure, but to our south there are now “…75 P-Patches distributed throughout the city, equaling approximately 23 acres, serving 4,400 gardeners. Gardeners throughout the city contributed 17,000 hours maintaining the common areas of the garden in 2010.” And “In 2010 alone, P-Patch gardeners donated 20,889 pounds=41,778 servings of fresh produce.” So they must be thriving. It might take a few tweaks to our laws to allow more kinds of animal husbandry, but it's within reach, so let’s thrive here, too.