Community gardens are good for Austin. Here are some of the things to love:
- They provide fresh and nutritious food.
- They create a more resilient city by reducing the impacts due to climate change.
- They offer a great way for neighbors to connect, socialize, and produce something together.
The Sustainable Urban Agriculture & Community Garden program at the City of Austin was created to help residents use City-owned land to start community gardens. If you’re interested in starting or joining a City-sponsored community garden, here’s what you need to know.
To start a garden on City of Austin land, you must get a Community Garden Permit through the Sustainable Urban Agriculture & Community Garden program. City-sponsored community gardens are required to be operated and maintained by at least four committed volunteers. Participating gardeners tend individual plots in the garden, or farm collectively to grow food, ornamental plants, and flowers. Harvested items are not for commercial use — gardeners can either enjoy the fruits of their labor, or donate them to a food pantry, food bank, or food rescue program.
City-sponsored community gardens must also use sustainable urban agriculture practices, such as the following:
- Water conservation
- Non-polluting, earth-friendly products and fertilizers
- Integrated pest management
How to Get Started
To prepare for filling out the City’s Community Garden Permit Application, do the following:
- Organize a steering committee. The group should include at least four dedicated gardeners responsible for overseeing the creation and continuing operation of the community garden, but we recommend having ten or more signed on to maintain the garden.
- Get educated. Attend the Sustainable Food Center’s Community Garden Leadership Training and connect with the Coalition of Austin Community Gardens.
- Identify a site. The Sustainable Urban Agriculture and Community Gardens program has a list of City-owned properties that are potentially available for community gardens.
- Create a budget. Calculate how much topsoil you’ll need, as well as the cost of any other tools and materials needed. Identify funding sources or sponsors to cover costs.
- Find a nonprofit to endorse your community garden. Endorsement from a non-profit, like the Sustainable Food Center, is required for liability insurance, utility accounts, and the licensing agreement with the City of Austin.
- Get endorsements from the community. Make sure that neighborhood associations, community residents, and surrounding schools and businesses support your plans.
Now you’re ready to download and fill out your Community Garden Permit Application.
Community Garden Permit Application Checklist
The following items are required to complete your permit application:
► A written description of your proposed garden that includes why you selected your particular site and how the garden will serve community needs.
► Land use permission from relevant City of Austin departments and any other landowners.
► A list of steering committee members and their contact information, as well as a list of committed gardeners.
► A design sketch for the garden that includes locations and sizes of all trees in the garden area.
► By-laws or rules for your community garden, including a sample contract or membership agreement for individual gardeners.
► A project timeline.
► A first year budget and fundraising plan for your community garden.
► Letter of support or memorandum of understanding from a sponsoring non-profit.
► Letter of support from the relevant neighborhood association for the garden site.
► Letters of support from surrounding neighbors and other key stakeholders. (Schools, churches, park users, etc.)
- Obtain water. Work with the Sustainable Urban Agriculture & Community Garden program to submit a water tap application for your community garden if a new water tap or meter is needed.
Now you can break ground and let the gardening begin!
Have questions or need more information? Contact Meredith Gauthier, Community Gardens Coordinator, City of Austin Parks and Recreation at 512-974-9450 or visit the Sustainable Urban Agriculture and Community Garden program website.
Interested in joining an existing community garden? Check out these resources: