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Urban Agriculture and Community Gardens

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Urban Agriculture and Community Gardens
by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Division of Extension, Milwaukee County

Urban Agriculture and Community Gardens

Highlights of the direct and indirect benefits for gardeners and partner organizations

Community gardens have been a fixture of Milwaukee County Extension since rental plots were first made available at the Milwaukee County Park grounds in 1972. Over the past five decades, Milwaukee County Extension’s Urban Agriculture programming has grown to include 11 garden sites, which encompass 80 acres, and directly serves over 750 households annually.

Milwaukee County Extension provides a variety of garden-based education for youth, hobby gardeners, veterans, and others, which is described in Appendix A. It also plays an important role in managing and maintaining nearly a dozen community gardens across the county (for more detail, refer to Appendix B).

To better understand the impacts of its garden plot rental program, Milwaukee County Extension partnered with the Extension Community Food Systems program and an evaluation specialist from the Extension Community Development Institute to conduct focus groups and interviews with a cross section of gardeners from three distinct garden sites in the Milwaukee County Extension garden network— Firefly Ridge, 6th Street and Howard and Kohl Farm—in fall 2021 (figure 1). This report summarizes the key themes that emerged from these focus groups and interviews (refer to Appendix C for discussion of methods).

Our findings underscore the value of Milwaukee County Extension’s role in garden oversight and maintenance by illustrating that consistent access to safe, affordable garden plots yields a myriad of benefits for participating gardeners as well as partner organizations that incorporate these community spaces into their programming. They are consistent with the benefits documented in the research on community gardens.

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