Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture

Benefits and Barriers to Implementing and Managing Well Rooted Community Gardens in Waterloo Region, Ontario

Copyright Cheryl L. Dow, 2006

A report submitted to the School of Urban and Regional Planning at Queen's University in conformity with the requirements for the degree of Master of Urban and Regional Planning (M.Pl.)

Queen's University
Kingston, Ontario, Canada
August 2006

On this web page we have placed an Executive Summary. The complete 165 page thesis can be downloaded here. (PDF 3.4 MB) Benefits and Barriers to Implementing and Managing Well Rooted Community Gardens in Waterloo Region, Ontario


The objective of this study was to determine planners' and community garden leaders' perceived benefits and barriers to implementing and managing community gardens in the Region of Waterloo and to develop recommendations that planners and garden leaders can implement to help foster well rooted gardens in the Region.

The report is qualitative in nature. Fifteen community garden leaders and six planners (including regional, environmental, land use, policy and parks and recreation) participated in semi-structured individual interviews that lasted between half an hour and one and a half hours.

The analysis indicated that both planners and community garden leaders perceived community gardens as offering a number of benefits to the Region as a whole, to communities in the Region, and to individual gardeners participating in community gardening. These benefits are summarized in the table below.

Community Garden Leaders' and Planner Interview Participants' Perceived Benefits of Community Gardens

In addition to the identification of perceived benefits, the analysis also indicated that community garden leaders have a number of perceived implementation and on-going management challenges which threaten the success of their community gardens. The top five perceived implementation barriers and the top five perceived on-going management barriers are summarized in the tables below.

Top 5 Implementation Challenges Identified by Community Garden Leaders

Top 5 On-Going Community Garden Management Challenges Identified by Community Garden Leaders

Garden leaders and planners provided their views on 1) how a regional community garden coordinator and 2) how urban planners can support community gardens in the Region.

The tables below summarize the main results.

Community Garden Leaders' Perceived Role of a Regional Community Garden Coordinator

Planners' Perceptions of How They Can Support Community Gardens

The main recommendations suggested in this report deal with how garden leaders, a Regional garden coordinator and planners (health, urban, policy, environmental, and parks and recreation) can help to support community gardens and to ensure that community gardens thrive in the Region. Recommendations were divided into three sets: 1) describing how community garden leaders can overcome perceived barriers; 2) suggestions relating to how a new community garden coordinator at the Regional level could help community gardens; and, 3) recommendations relating to how planners can support community gardens. The recommendations are summarized in the tables below:

Recommendations for Community Garden Leaders to Overcome Perceived Challenges

Vandalism Implement youth programs at the community garden.
Develop positive relationships with police and the community.
Research "best practice" vandalism reduction strategies.
Insurance Think about starting gardens at churches or public lands because they often have insurance policies that cover the gardening activity.
Pests Put up biodegradable bars of soap around the garden.
Put netting up over the garden.
Funding City of Kitchener has a Community Garden policy that supplies funding.
City of Waterloo offers partners in parks program.
TD Friends of the Environment offer funding to community gardens
NIMBY Be proactive, introduce yourself to neighbours and address concerns before implementing the garden, physical barriers (hedges, fences) also may be effective.
Infrastructure Choose a site that has easy access to water.
Purchase rain barrels.
Give gardeners a key to access water sources.
Education/Lack of Awareness Join the community garden network.
Talk to the Working Centre in Kitchener for start up advice.
Co-ordinating the Garden Make a list of rules; enforce rules by implementing a refundable deposit.
Assign chores to each gardener.
Securing Downtown Land
Conservation easements and/or land trusts can be set up.

Recommendations for a Potential New Regional Community Garden Coordinator

Community Garden Leaders Perceived Tasks a Regional Community Garden Coordinator Should Be Involved In Description of the tasks which fall under the key duties of a Region Garden Coordinator
Education Provide educational materials to gardeners including a start-up kit.
Outreach Engage in outreach to each garden. Go and visit the gardens, get to know the people and the issues at gardens that request an interest in support from the coordinator.
Reward Gardens Reward community gardens for their efforts. Rewards can be financial or publicity.
Secure Resources Secure resources (human, financial and land) for community gardens in the Region. Keep leaders informed as to how to access the resources
Advertising Make material that advertises the benefits of community gardens to the public and that connects interested gardeners with nearby garden plots.
Maintain Community Garden Network Help to maintain the community garden network by keeping gardeners informed, providing education and workshops.

Recommendations for Regional and City Planning Staff

Policy Create supportive community garden policies that are implemented in the Regional and City's official plan.
Focus on Food Security Address the issue of food security in the Region. Conduct a food security inventory, start a food security council and show how community gardens are related to food security.
Land Use Planning Incorporate community gardens into land use plans. Look for suitable areas and designated them as areas for community gardens.
Incentives Offer incentives to developers who put community gardens into their development plans. Incentives can including being lenient on zoning, awarding developers for "green building" and showing the financial benefits to the developer of incorporating community gardens into their plans.
Education Planners can play a unique role in educating the public about the value of community gardens.

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September 13, 2006

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture