It seems like planners and policy makers, especially environmentalists, have been consumed by the idea of everything being “green and sustainable.” So, the focus for these professionals is what makes communities, environment, transportation systems, economies, development, and so on, ecologically right and sustainable. Greening Cities, Growing Communities: Learning from the Seattle’s Urban Community Gardens”, which centers on urban community gardens, is yet another study focusing on the green and sustainable theme using the Seattle experience.
Greening Cities, Growing Communities begins with a general overview of what is commonly known as “community gardens” in North America – its history; types or range of community gardens; various designs, concepts and development; administrative and organizational structures; sponsorships and funding mechanisms; participation and memberships; and, roles and socio-economic functions. The book then looks at the Seattle experience with community gardens through a detailed examination of six such gardens in Seattle to offer “insights and lessons for other cities and communities.” The six community gardens were: Interbay, Thistle, Bradner, Marra Farm, Magnuson, and the Danny Woo Community Garden in the International District.
Each of these community gardens are described in chronological order, from oldest to newest, with regard to their layout, background and history, design process and implementation, funding and support, organization and participation, programs and functions, and contextual factors and challenges. In addition, there is mention of the features the particular garden provides that others do not.
The description, examination and evaluation of the Danny Woo International District Garden were detailed and surprisingly fair. The authors accurately described Danny Woo and his family generously allowed the land to be used for a urban garden to allow the local residents, particularly the Asian elderly, to grow food; how the International District Improvement Association (Inter-Im) was able to organize volunteers and get businesses to contribute to the initial development of the garden; the current management of the garden by the International District Community Development agency; the help provided by the University of Washington College of Architecture and Urban Planning and their students; funding sources; and challenges its faces because of the illicit activities (drug dealings) that regularly occurs on site and the adjacent Kobe Terrace Park. The only error that the authors missed is that the eastern portion of the garden was not land owned by the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department but rather managed by the then City Engineering Department, who allowed an easement for the land to be used as a community garden. In any case, what makes the Danny Woo community garden unique is it’s setting in a downtown location, Asian elderly participants, and property lease arrangement.
The authors are Jeffrey Hou and Julie M. Johnson, who are associate professors of landscape architecture at the University of Washington and Laura J. Lawson, an associate professor of landscape architecture at the University of Illinois. The book or study was conducted under the auspices of the Landscape Architecture Foundation as part of their ongoing support for case-study research aimed at furthering the academic and professional knowledge of the profession, which says a lot about who the book was written for and who should read it.
This book is clearly not for the average gardener nor someone interested in urban agriculture. Indeed, this book is written for policy analysts and city planners interested in urban community gardens, and students in urban planning wanting an introductory course in that subject. Nonetheless, this book provides a good, solid introduction to urban community gardens.