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

Sowing and Reaping on Borrowed Land: Garden City Harvest's Community Gardens

by Joellen Shannon
B.A. University of Notre Dame, 1996
Presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Environmental Studies
The University of Montana
November 2004
Committee Chair: Neva Hassanein

The complete paper can be downloaded here. (320K Word Document) (19,708 Words) Sowing and Reaping on Borrowed Land: Garden City Harvest's Community Gardens


The motivation behind this research project was to discover what the key benefits of Garden City Harvest's community gardens (CG) were to individual and the community in Missoula, Montana. The central research question asks, "Who are Missoula's community gardeners and what benefits do community gardens bring to the gardeners and the community?"

Much of the existing literature on CGs speaks to the social, economic and environmental benefits of community gardening. The extensive history of CGs revealed the depth and strength that CGs possessed, standing the test of over a century's worth of changes in the U.S. However despite their long history, support for CGs has ebbed and flowed over time. Current day CGs are presented with challenges such as a lack of data on their success, land insecurity, and a lack of recognition from municipalities.

In order to gain an understanding of the experience community gardeners have in Missoula, Montana, I developed two surveys that were administered to gardeners in the 2003 gardening season. Based on these surveys I found that CGs in Missoula were valued by both seasoned veterans and newcomers to the project. They involved close to 150 people at five urban gardens. The majority of gardeners were of a lower income, a high education attainment, and men and women participated almost equally. Community gardening had immediate and tangible effects, such as decreased grocery bills, more control over the food one consumes, and the attainment of gardening skills and knowledge. Most gardeners hade a positive outlook on their experience, highlighting community building, access to land and resources, attainment of knowledge and participation in the production of their food as the most valuable aspects of their experience. This process also extended benefits to the social realm, where the community aspect of gardening helped to develop relations between gardeners and a sense of community connection.

Gardening in community also had its drawbacks, as gardeners reported on vandalism, theft, lack of adequate water and tools, and pest issues. On the whole the benefits certainly outweighed the problems for most gardeners.

Search Our Site[new]

pointer Return to Contents' Page pointer

Revised Monday, May 2, 2005

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture