Community Gardening in Minnesota: A Snapshot

Gardening Matters defines a community garden to be:
Any space that is gardened by a group of people to meet the needs of that group of people.

Gardening Matters maintains a database of community gardens in Minnesota. We rely on garden leaders to submit information to us via our Community Garden Survey[1]. All of the statistics in this document are derived from this self-reported garden information. Therefore, this snapshot analysis should not be interpreted as completely comprehensive, as there are likely more gardens that exist for which we have no information. Thank you to the gardeners who have taken the time to share their community garden information with Gardening Matters!

 MSP cg fusion map

How Many and Where Are They?
Gardening Matters has been collecting survey data about community gardens in Minnesota since 2006. As of January 2008, we had about 200 community gardens in our database; today we are aware of at least 541 community gardens throughout MN.

82.8% (n=448) of those 541 gardens report that they primarily grow food.

Major Region Gardens in 2012 Gardens in 2014 % Change 2014 Food Producing Gardens 
Minneapolis 194 244  25.7% 194
St. Paul 79 93  17.7% 76
7-County Metro Area 394 476  20.8% 402

Help us keep our records up to date by encouraging gardens in your area to submit a 2014 Community Garden Survey![2]

Community Garden Trends:

We compile the data from our Community Garden Survey to analyze the trends, needs, challenges, and successes of community gardens across the state. 

32.5% of community gardens in MN donate fresh produce 

According to Minnesota FoodShare, more than 8,500 people per day in Minnesota used a food shelf in 2012[3]. Food insecurity is a symptom of a broken food system and a function of the systems that keep folks in poverty. Gardening Matters believes that gardens are part of the solution. Growing one’s own food and eating the fresh produce reduces food bills and increases health outcomes, and gardening in the community allows neighbors to share the bounty of their harvest.

The mechanisms for donating varies by garden- some gardens exist for the sole purpose of donating the produce (aka “giving gardens”); some gardens have plots or areas dedicated to the food shelf; some garden leaders encourage their gardeners to donate any excess they harvest; and some gardens donate to community meals that serve low-income neighbors.

Specific programs also exist to facilitate the process of donating fresh produce to area food shelves. The Garden Gleaning Project through the Minnesota Project, the City of Minneapolis Healthy Food Shelf Network[4], and MN FoodShare’s GardenShare project[5] are examples of how community members can work together to increase food security in their neighborhoods.

For resources on how to partner with your local food shelf to donate produce, check out the Garden Gleaning Toolkit, created by the Garden Gleaning Project[6].

40% of gardens report that either they have a communal area in their garden or that their whole garden is communal

Individual plot-style (aka “allotment”) gardens are still most common, but there is something to be said about the experience of maintaining a growing space with other people. There are a variety of ways to design a community garden- the ideal structure and design of the garden will depend on each unique group.

Cities and faith-based institutions are most common partners for growing space

One of the greatest barriers for community gardens is access to growing space. In areas where demand for land is very high, it becomes more crucial to partner with institutions or individuals in the community who may be supportive of the goals of a community garden. Out of 410 community gardens statewide for which we have landownership data, here is a breakdown of where community gardens are located:

Landowner n= %
City 89 21.7
Faith-based institution 74 18
Non-profit 59 14.4
Private Individuals 50 12.2
School or Academia 35 8.5
Housing[7] 28 6.8
Business/Corporation 22 5.4
Right-of-Way[8] 19 4.6
Rail Road 10 2.4
County 10 2.4
Park[9] 8 2
Other[10] 5 2.7
The community garden itself (Block Club) 1 .24

Long-term access to growing space is a key component to the success and sustainability of community gardens. A lease for one to three years is not uncommon; it is a start, but it does not provide the stability a garden needs to thrive. Without the guarantee for long-term access to land, community gardens are unable to make crucial investments in infrastructure, soil quality, and community connections that lead to greater social, economic and environmental impacts.

Gardening Matters works with new and existing community gardens to develop strong relationships with landowners. Good relationships are forged not only through written contract with the landowner; it is important that community gardens continually demonstrate the value of their community garden to stakeholders, like the landowner, and spread community awareness of the importance of long-term access to the community garden to the whole community.

39% of gardens intentionally involve youth

Schoolyard gardens, extra-curricular programs, gardens on the block- many types of gardens report a focus on youth education. Young people are the present, and our future, and involving youth in the growing, cooking, and selling of fresh food is crucial for our longevity as a society.

Demand for community garden space exceeds current supply of gardens

Current data tells us that demand for community garden space exceeds supply of the current number of gardens. Gardening Matters offers a community garden referral service to connect residents with growing space in nearby gardens. This year (2014), we have given 150 referrals to community members by phone and email.

In the new 2014 Community Garden Survey, we ask garden coordinators if they have difficulty filling spots in their garden. Of the 51 gardens that have responded, 40 report that they usually have no difficulty filling up. Some gardens report that their waitlist is 20 or more people long.

Especially in densely populated urban areas, it is not uncommon for community gardens plots to be taken within a week of opening their garden for the season. Some areas like North Minneapolis, on the other hand, have an abundance of open lots due to institutional disinvestment and the 2011 tornado. Many local groups have steadily been transforming the lots into beautiful garden spaces used for food production, community building, and economic development. Instead of shortage of space as the primary barrier, the challenge is gaining access to the open space.

In order to preserve land used for growing food within the city, Representative Karen Clark proposed a bill (HF 2111) that would add urban agriculture development zones to land use planning, and calls for cities with populations of 60,000 or more to create and maintain these zones. Even in areas outside of the agriculture zones, the bill would call for each city’s plan to specify where urban ag would fit as the highest and best use.

Gardens still need support on infrastructure

As we support the development of more community gardens, we need to also continue to support the gardens that already exist so they can secure the infrastructure they need to be successful.

2014 was the fourth year Gardening Matters was able to award community garden mini-grants. Again this year we saw that many of the project proposals were for basic infrastructure needs, such as tool sheds, watering systems, and raised beds (both to compensate for poor soil quality and to increase the accessibility for gardeners with physical challenges). These infrastructure needs have amazing potential for partnerships and community development. When local groups mobilize for a garden’s workday, the project, however simple, brings to realization the type of community building that the garden often intends to accomplish in their neighborhood. The improvements to the garden yield greater contributions from the garden, and ideally, the multiple benefits of the garden continue to play out in the community for years to come.

Multiple Benefits of Community Gardens
Gardening Matters compiles a guide to the Multiple Benefits of Community Gardening (2011), which documents the wide body of research available from institutions across the country demonstrating the positive impacts of community gardens. This and other helpful resources for community gardens across Minnesota are available on the Gardening Matters website at

[1] To submit or view the 2014 Community Garden Survey, visit or type in the shortcut-  . Paper surveys also available upon request.

[2] To submit or view the 2014 Community Garden Survey, visit or type in the shortcut- Paper surveys also available upon request.





[7] Includes public, affordable & senior, as well as townhome associations and housing cooperatives

[8] Right of way land can be administered by Cities, Counties, or the State Department of Transportation

[9] Includes city parks or state parks

[10] Includes airport, DNR, and the National Guard.