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Wasatch Community Gardens' Campus

Our Vision empowers people to grow and eat healthy, organic, local food through combining urban agriculture and affordable housing.

Photo of Ashley Patterson
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Lead Applicant Organization Name

Wasatch Community Gardens

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small NGO (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

NA

Website of Legally Registered Entity

www.wasatchgardens.org

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 3-10 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Salt Lake City

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

United States of America

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Salt Lake City

What country is your selected Place located in?

United States of America

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Since 1989, Wasatch Community Gardens (WCG) has served Salt Lake County residents with a vision of an inclusive, robust, and vibrant community that is nourished by healthy and affordable food. Our hands-on, garden-based programming gives children and adults the opportunity to grow and harvest fresh produce in our 17 community gardens, 18 school gardens, two youth teaching gardens, job training farm, and demonstration garden. We strive to make our programs accessible to all in our community: in 2019, 61% of the children and adults we served were from low- to moderate-income households.

WCG began in the mid-1980s as Wasatch Fish & Gardens Project and in 1989, was incorporated as an independent nonprofit organization, later re-named Wasatch Community Gardens. In the 1990s, WCG expanded its community garden opportunities and began to offer youth garden programming and educational workshops. In 2011, we formed municipal partnerships to start community gardens on underutilized park lands. We expanded our youth programming with the addition of summer camps (2011), a field trip program (2012), and a school garden program (2014). In 2016, we started a farm-based job training program to provide employment and job training to women facing homelessness, and in 2019 we expanded that program to work with single moms in poverty.

For the past 31 years, Wasatch Community Gardens (WCG) has built and continues to manage, a significant network of thriving urban agriculture projects in Salt Lake County. Our flagship Grateful Tomato Garden in Salt Lake City’s Central City neighborhood is a .55 acre community and educational garden that has been in production by WCG since the mid-1980’s and was purchased by our organization in 1996. We placed a conservation easement on the property in 2016  to permanently protect it as agricultural open space for our community. In 2017, we purchased three adjacent properties in order to create our Vision, the Wasatch Community Gardens' Campus.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Salt Lake City has undergone tremendous growth in the past ten years and since 1987, Utah has lost over half of its productive orchards to development. Despite a rich agricultural history, Utah currently produces only 2% of the state’s vegetable needs and 3% of its fruit needs. In spite of Utahns overwhelmingly expressing support for increasing fruit and vegetable production in our state through surveys, farms and gardens continue to be transformed into residential and commercial projects and parking lots at an alarming rate. The Sugarhouse neighborhood in Salt Lake City is named for all of the fruit trees planted by the Mormon settlers, the majority of which have been supplanted by buildings, driveways, and sod.

The first white settlers in this area were the Mormon pioneers who established the Plat of Zion, an urban development plan composed of ten acre development blocks that included residential, commercial, and spiritual functions as well as community spaces and agricultural lands. When these settlers arrived in the mid-1800s, growing and preserving local foods was an important part of the life of the community but over the past century, this core function has diminished in importance. Despite that history, a Latter Day Saint (LDS) ward recently outraged the neighborhood by announcing plans to transform a 1.5 acre community garden that they into a parking lot. With passionate community organizing by the gardeners and the community council, the LDS Church ultimately agreed to save half the property for the garden, but their initial decision shows how this community has strayed from valuing land as productive green space to nourish ourselves and sustain our community to seeing land simply as a place to park vehicles.

Salt Lake City serves as a refugee resettlement community and the LDS Church notably engages in missionary work throughout the world, which has over the recent decades transformed the demographics of the people living here from predominantly Caucasian to representing a huge diversity of racial and ethnic backgrounds that has enriched our community and expanded our cultural and culinary options. Hispanics now account for approximately 22% of the residents and the city has a significant LGBTQ community. There is also a large Pacific Islander population (roughly 2% of the population of the Salt Lake Valley area).

This city has a robust local food scene with several farmers’ markets, many farm-to-table restaurants, and multiple ethnic festivals drawing people from throughout the region, proving that Utahns value local food and agriculture. Residents enjoy locally grown peaches, apricots, apples, raspberries, and the typical garden row crops like tomatoes, cucumbers, and green beans. The hot summers are favorable for melons and sweet corn.

 Our residents and neighbors have voted in favor of preserving agricultural lands and supporting local farmers, even being willing to stand up to their church or sacrifice water for their own lawns. The value of local agriculture runs deep in this community and is value that unifies the many different people that call Salt Lake City home

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)

286

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

200000

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Salt Lake City is rapidly urbanizing and in spite of its founding around large garden plots that were supplied irrigation by the Mormon settlers, is rapidly losing all of its farms and gardens to development. Real estate values in Salt Lake City have increased exponentially in recent years, leading to gentrification and loss of urban farms and greenspace. Like many cities around the country and the world, farmers cannot compete with real estate developers to maintain the farms that sustain us. While food prices increase, farmers continue to lose their percentage of the overall food expenditures as delivery, processing, retail, and storage expenditures take their portion of the product delivery.

There is a greenbelt law in Salt Lake County intended to preserve farmland, but it only applies to parcels of 2 acres or larger, and with many small urban farms finding profitability on smaller sized lots, the law is not able to help preserve the truly small urban farms.

With our already hot, dry summers being exacerbated by climate change, the growing season has become more challenging, making backyard gardeners and small farmers struggle to find solutions to keep productivity up in the heat of the summer. Additionally, the price of locally raised, organic produce is accessible to only a certain socio-economic class of people while at that same time as fewer of our residents know how to grow and prepare fresh produce to create healthy and delicious meals.

Finally, with the proliferation of grab and go prepared foods, residents have less incentive to grow and prepare food in their homes using fresh produce. Technology has introduced the ability to have food delivered with a few swipes on a phone, and at the same time, we’ve seen a reduction in the number of people gardening and preparing fresh food with their families. These activities bring a great deal more than simply healthy meals. They also bring connection to the land, appreciation of the natural world, opportunities to connect with a diverse group of people, and a regenerative culture. Very few retail outlets that offer affordable and convenient prepared food are purchasing produce from local farms due to factors ranging from price, accessibility, and volume.

These challenges of 2020 are not likely to diminish by 2050, but indeed, will likely increase. The population of the Wasatch Front is expected to double by 2050 which will mean further decreases in productive farmland, higher real estate values, more urban heat island challenges, higher local food prices, more opportunities for cheaper and less healthy food, and less opportunities for small urban agriculture projects. We anticipate simply seeing more of the same problems we have today being exacerbated by 2050 and beyond and with fewer people understanding how to successfully grow food in our region today than 50 years ago, our pool of farmers and gardeners will decrease even further. This will erode our connection to our culture and our Place.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

The disconnect between people and their food has never been wider, and our increasingly industrialized food system continues to cause environmental and human health problems. WCG is working to reclaim residents’ connection to their food and their Place with an integrated Vision - the Wasatch Community Gardens’ Campus. This project is designed to visualize our mission and work by transforming residential properties in the heart of the dense and urbanized Central City neighborhood into demonstration and teaching gardens intended to help community members grow and eat more healthy, organic, local food, combined with a small, affordable housing component to help our organization overcome the financial realities of the high cost of land in Salt Lake City

Our Vision will be allow our organization to serve more community members through increasing demonstration garden space that is free and open to the public, offering more youth and adult educational opportunities related to organic gardening, and creating an educational cottage with a teaching kitchen to enhance our class offerings throughout the year. The variety and scale of the facility will allow WCG to demonstrate many different food growing techniques, including vertical gardening, square foot gardening, maximizing small urban spaces such as balconies and window boxes for growing food, and using a greenhouse and hoop house to extend the growing season as well as techniques for mitigating urban heat island effects due to climate change.

Salt Lake City required WCG to include a residential component in our urban agriculture project. We designed an eight-unit, affordable (units will be priced to serve those at 60-80% area median income), and created a net zero energy building that will also collect rainwater for irrigation use. This portion of the project will add vibrancy to the site during all hours of the day, as well as bring much needed sustainable and long-term revenue to the organization while increasing housing opportunities in a desirable and established neighborhood.

Our Vision seeks to demonstrate that adding density around a garden to preserve valuable agricultural space is not only financial viable, but also an asset to the community and the neighborhood. This project can potentially serve as a model for non-profit organizations who want to maintain urban agriculture lands where these green spaces are rapidly disappearing under buildings and parking lots. Our insistence that the residential component be innovative, green, and affordable has proven to be a budgetary challenge due to the small size of the units and the small number of them. In spite of these challenges, we’re continuing to develop this Vision of having philanthropy assist with affordable housing projects that serve as investments for non-profit organizations. We envision it as a scalable model to help communities with food, housing, and development issues that also begins to reclaim public space for all residents.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

As our Vision is implemented, we foresee that others in Salt Lake City will build on this Vision to maintain these critical and productive lands that feed not only our bodies, but our souls. There are few things more comforting, welcoming, and beautiful than an urban garden. The space can help people reconnect with the concepts of regenerative culture and connection to our Place, simply as a result of its existence. This is particularly true when  contrasted with urban blight, decay, and even progress, with its generic high-rise buildings and three car garages. As more of these urban agriculture spaces are woven into the fabric of our community, it will inspire others to contribute to the local food and agriculture movement in different ways. More urban gardens will inevitably bring a healthier local food scene simply due to the power of the imagination to add to these functionally aesthetic spaces. And, it will increase our residents’ connection to our Place, especially those unable to own land here.

Our vision hearkens back to the development patterns of the Plat of Zion, a plan implemented by the first Mormon settlers, where agriculture, community, spirituality, and connection to our Place were all valued. Our Vision helps to bring these ideas forward again to a unifying Vision for our city moving forward. Our vision turns back time in Salt Lake City and returns to shared values of healthy and local food, family and neighbors, appreciation for the land, self-sufficiency, and the community. The passage of time that has brought with it exposure to global citizens will increase our appreciation for all kinds of different people and foods who can come together through a shared appreciation for growing and eating healthy, organic, local food.

The combination of using affordable housing to preserve agricultural land will move our city toward smaller and more community-based farms and gardens, which will improve our food system and build a healthier community.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

As our Vision is implemented, we foresee that others in Salt Lake City will build on this Vision to maintain these critical and productive lands that feed not only our bodies, but our souls. There are few things more comforting, welcoming, and beautiful than an urban garden. The space can help people reconnect with the concepts of regenerative culture and connection to our Place, simply as a result of its existence. This is particularly true when  contrasted with urban blight, decay, and even progress, with its generic high-rise buildings and three car garages. As more of these urban agriculture spaces are woven into the fabric of our community, it will inspire others to contribute to the local food and agriculture movement in different ways. More urban gardens will inevitably bring a healthier local food scene simply due to the power of the imagination to add to these functionally aesthetic spaces. And, it will increase our residents’ connection to our Place, especially those unable to own land here.

Our vision hearkens back to the development patterns of the Plat of Zion, a plan implemented by the first Mormon settlers, where agriculture, community, spirituality, and connection to our Place were all valued. Our Vision helps to bring these ideas forward again to a unifying Vision for our city moving forward. Our vision turns back time in Salt Lake City and returns to shared values of healthy and local food, family and neighbors, appreciation for the land, self-sufficiency, and the community. The passage of time that has brought with it exposure to global citizens will increase our appreciation for all kinds of different people and foods who can come together through a shared appreciation for growing and eating healthy, organic, local food.

The combination of using affordable housing to preserve agricultural land will move our city toward smaller and more community-based farms and gardens, which will improve our food system and build a healthier community.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Referral

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Photo of Village Development  Center (VDC)
Team

Hi, I want to create a network with you.
Email;- vdcrangpur@gmail.com

Photo of Ashley Patterson
Team

Excellent. Thanks so much for your comment. I am at director@wasatchgardens.org and would love to connect.

Photo of Village Development  Center (VDC)
Team

Thank you so much for the Food Extension Initiative

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