Welcome to The
Radical Root Blog


Your go-to resource for all things Radical Gardening and food system justice. Subscribe below for your free Radical Gardening Resource Guide and monthly updates. 

Partnering for Change: Growing Gardens' Community Garden Initiatives

home gardens in our own words

Why Partner Gardens?

In addition to residential gardens, the Home Gardens team works with local organizations to develop their own community gardens and garden-based programming through the Partner Gardens program. Partnerships often consist of garden program planning in collaboration with community stakeholders, garden design and consultation, education through workshops and mentorship, and gardening supplies. Sometimes, these partnerships take the form of one-time gardening workshops, and other times, they are multi-year collaborations to start a garden and develop programming. 

“I like to imagine that all of Growing Gardens is a network,” Angel Hammon, the Home Gardens Operation Manager, said. For example, Youth Grow might connect families with Home Gardens, or someone in Home Gardens may be connected to someone in Lettuce Grow. “Partner Gardens is a way of expanding this reach. It’s doing things on more than just a surface level, we are entrenched in peoples’ gardening experiences and what they share with their friends and family.”

If someone is unable to join Home Gardens due to landlord or space restrictions, Growing Gardens can partner with their housing complex or a nearby community space to start a community garden. “That way, we can still support folks in creating spaces for them to garden,” Rashae Burns, Home Gardens Director, said.

Partner gardens can also be a way for Home Gardens participants to enrich their gardening practice and further engage with their community. Roma Leiva, who works as the Partnership Coordinator at that site, is also a Community Coordinator for the Home Gardens program. She is able to connect people she meets through the Garden of Giving to apply to the Home Gardens program, and encourages the Home Garden participants she works with to attend the workshops she offers at the garden.

How It Works

“We let partnerships come to us,” Rashae said, which ensures that communities lead the way in terms of creating a garden that reflects their desires. “Our goal is investment in the garden beyond us, from the management of an organization or from the community.”

Organizations and communities can apply for a partnership here. This is followed by a meeting between Growing Gardens and the organization to determine if the partnership would be a good fit for both parties. 

 “We aren’t just coming in to build a garden, we want to build relationships,” Angel said. Official partnerships with organizations usually only last a few years. Growing Gardens is happy to provide resources and support as needed after the direct collaboration is over, but like the Home Gardens program, the goal is to use these years to help organizations build the knowledge, experience, and community support to sustain their gardens indefinitely.

Upon entering a partnership, Growing Gardens helps organizations to develop a Garden Committee with diverse and representative community stakeholders, to begin the planning process. The garden design and building phase involves soil lead testing of the site, coordinating work parties, and providing free garden supplies, from compost bins to plant starts. Throughout the process, Growing Gardens offers a variety of options for garden education support depending on what kind of programming the partner site is interested in. This ranges from on-site workshops for staff and community members, seasonal consultations, and on-site training for educators. Partners also receive copies of Growing Gardens’ Home Gardening Manual and Youth Grow Lesson Manual.

Partners are expected to define and work towards goals for their garden program, facilitate participation and coordinate outreach, maintain garden infrastructure, and designate a paid person to manage garden policies. 

You can find more information on the details of partnerships here.

Community Involvement

Often, the biggest barrier for organizations maintaining a community garden or offering garden programming is a lack of consistency. Most organizations do not have someone in a designated role to take care of a garden, and with turnover within the organization and volunteer work that ebbs and flows, it can be difficult to sustain the necessary level of care for a garden over time.

During the years when Growing Gardens is working directly with organizations, then, a large part of the work is building relationships, both within organizations and in the communities they work with, to ensure that there is a foundation of support and involvement.

“If we can get the community invested, then hopefully the garden will flourish, which benefits everyone,” Angel said. This often involves spending time with organizations and communities before beginning any hands-on gardening work to learn what they want to get out of their garden and tailoring the garden to fit those desires.

For example, Cascadia Health’s Firefly site serves as transitional housing for youth, preparing them for re-entry into independent living. Community members expressed excitement about gardening as an opportunity to both exercise individual autonomy and practice communication and collaboration with a collective project, as well as a desire for the garden to be an aesthetically pleasing and peaceful space. With these principles in mind, Growing Gardens helped Cascadia develop a garden that has a combination of communal and individual beds, with benches and plenty of places to relax.

Growing Gardens aims to engage with communities in a hands-on way through each stage of the process, to encourage involvement and to help people build the necessary skills to sustain gardens over time. For example, Growing Gardens partnered with Alder Commons, a community center in Northeast Portland, to refurbish their pre-existing garden. Growing Gardens held a series of workshops to build more beds, but before even beginning to plant, we held a cleanup event to get the space ready and introduce community members to the project, hopefully getting people excited to stay involved, complete with food and music.

Partnering with organizations that have different areas of expertise also allows Growing Gardens to learn and develop by exploring gardening from different angles. For instance, while Growing Gardens believes that gardening is a powerful holistic health practice, working with people from more clinical backgrounds, such as caregivers at the Garden of Giving, can help reinforce and strengthen this belief with scientific backing along with helping us create an environment to act on it. Growing Gardens sees our partnerships as mutually beneficial endeavors. “It’s really about support and collaboration,” Angel said. “We’re not a business, we don’t have to harbor any secrets. We want to share information and resources.”

CSA Boxes

Home Gardens also partners with five local farms to deliver CSA boxes to households on the Home Gardens waitlist. Home Gardens delivers about 100 boxes of produce per week, and if there are extra, they go to current Home Gardens participants to supplement the harvests from their gardens.

This partnership began during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, in response to conversations with community members about the kinds of programming they would like to see. “We are thinking about the larger scale, how does gardening fit into communities?” Rashae said. 

CSAs can often be hard to attain financially, as they require paying all at once, which isn’t realistic for many families. This partnership works in tandem with other efforts to make CSAs more accessible — for example, in Oregon, people can now use SNAP benefits to purchase CSAs.

The program is beneficial for both farms and families. Since it is funded by a USDA grant, farms still get full funding in addition to an opportunity to connect with communities, and families get fresh produce. This access to a variety of fresh food can also stoke excitement for future Home Gardens participants about things they want to grow in their future gardens.

Growing Gardens prioritizes partnering with BIPOC farmers who engage in various sustainable agriculture practices, and emphasizes these partnerships as chances to support small farms who are still growing and developing. In addition to vegetable farms, Growing Gardens has partnered with growers such as Mariquita Medicinals, so that the boxes have variety and feature things not often found in CSAs.

Stay connected with news and updates!

Join the Radical Root mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

Read This Next..

Nurturing Curiosity: Early Childhood Garden Education with Youth Grow

Partnering for Change: Growing Gardens' Community Garden Initiatives

Cultivating Resilience: How Home Gardens is Transforming Lives

Learn How to Sow Seeds of Change With The Radical Gardening Resource Guide!

Download the Radical Gardening Resource Guide for actionable steps to transform your love of gardening into a powerful force for community impact.