Seattle to the World: P-Patches

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Gardeners Nurture a More Livable Seattle

The story:
P-Patches have a long history of passionate community activism. The community gardening program officially started in 1973, when activist and UW student Darlyn Rundberg Del Boca teamed up with City Councilmember Bruce Chapman and convinced the City of Seattle to a portion of the Picardo Farm in Wedgwood for an affordable rate (just enough to cover the cost of taxes). From those original plots came the P-Patch program, named in honor of the Picardo property.

Since then, the P-Patch program has expanded to include 2,500 plots around the city, offering 6,000 urban gardeners a place to do their satisfying work. And the program fosters both environmental stewardship and a strong community ethic. Gardeners are required to give 8 hours of community service to maintain the P-Patch community gardens; only organic gardening is permitted, and the program grows and donates 7 to 10 tons of fresh organic produce to local food banks every year.

The program has changed management several times, finally settling under the jurisdiction of the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods. Neighborhood Matching Fund grants have allowed P-Patches around the city to apply for the funds to support community-built improvements like an art fence and compost bins in Belltown, and a community gathering area in Angel Morgan. The interest in improvements that go beyond seedlings and soil shows that these areas have become thriving places for human connection and recreation.

Why it's Worldchanging:
In addition to myriad local benefits like fresh produce for needy residents, Seattle's P-Patch program offers many lessons to the world at large. First, we love that it's a great example of product-sharing services. When residents have access to green space to play and garden as they please, they don't feel as fenced-in by dense living … and there's much less desire for a personal swath of lawn. Second, livable cities need to offer forms of entertainment that don't require users to make a purchase. P-Patches are not only places for city dwellers to grow fresh food and flowers; they're also safe, enjoyable places for families and individuals to socialize, spend time outdoors and get valuable exercise. Investing city resources in this valuable program is truly an investment in the future of quality of life in Seattle.

Photo credit: flickr/patchoulli, licensed by Creative Commons.


This post is part of the series, "Seattle to the World: 100 Best Innovations from the Emerald City."

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