Getting Started

Read FAQs, check out a graphic on how to start a new site, look at maps of existing projects in SF, and more!

This is the current interactive map of all current urban agriculture sites that the public can generally access in the city of San Francisco.  SFUSD sites that were counted are gardens that participate with Education Outside and therefore have some edible component.  If you would like to be added to the map or have more information on one of the sites listed here, please contact the urban agriculture program coordinator.  Want to specifically look at Recreation and Parks community gardens only?  Please click here. If you’d like to get gardening or volunteering right now, check out “ communally managed gardens with open volunteer workdays.”

Thanks to SPUR for their help gathering information for this map.

WHAT IS URBAN AGRICULTURE?

Urban Agriculture includes the use of land for farming and horticulture (the growing of vegetables, fruits, and flowers), apiaries (you can keep bees), and animal and poultry husbandry (you can keep baby goats and/or chickens). You can even have a greenhouse in San Francisco!

Urban Agriculture allows an avenue for us to increase access to healthy local food, beautify our city, promote healthy recreation and physical activities, build stronger communities, activate green space, and develop a sustainable connection with the environment.

San Francisco has passed legislation to facilitate Urban Agriculture, in particular for the purpose of all types of gardening - gardens which are cooperatively cultivated and maintained by individuals or neighborhood groups.

Urban Agriculture takes many forms, but in general, the resources available in San Francisco include opportunities to:

  • Start your own private garden
  • Start your own community garden or farm
  • Operate a plot in an existing community garden
  • Volunteer in a community garden

The benefits of Urban Agriculture are also numerous, but include:

  • Improving local skills;
  • Protecting the environment;
  • Reaping real economic benefits, including the ability to buy and sell healthy, local food, as well as seeing increased property values in spaces with urban agriculture
  • Promote health and physical activity;
  • Grow community connections;
  • Teach a new generation;
  • Address food security and food justice through food production; and
  • Increasing our local food systems resilience while helping combat climate change.

You can visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s website for more information on history, policies, and benefits related to urban agriculture, particularly around the movement to restore “brownfields,” or abandoned or unused land, to vibrant spaces for the community.

WHERE CAN I GARDEN IN SAN FRANCISCO?

There are over one hundred Urban Gardens in San Francisco, many of which have open plots or regularly solicit help from volunteers - you don’t necessarily have to start your own garden in order to practice urban agriculture. If you are willing to do a little research, there is always a way to get involved! The two main ways San Franciscans participate in urban agriculture include starting your own garden or participating in an existing garden.

You can find detailed information on how to launch any of these projects at the San Francisco Urban Agriculture Alliance (SFUAA) resources page or on this City and County of San Francisco Urban Agriculture Program.

The City and County of San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department is a great resource for urban gardening. The Recreation and Park Department supports and manages a program of 38 community gardens (and growing!) on City-owned property, where members can grow produce and ornamental plants for personal use. Gardens range in size from a few hundred square feet to thousands of square feet; some offer individual plots while others have shared plots. Some gardens also offer demonstration gardening or other instructional programming. The Community Gardens Program is a substantial component of the new citywide Urban Agriculture Program.

Each garden is operated by a group of  volunteers who are responsible for assigning plots, managing the wait list, and collecting membership fees which cover common expenses. Click here to find a community garden in your neighborhood!

HOW DO I GET A PLOT AT AN EXISTING GARDEN?

There are many ways to start gardening in San Francisco. A great place to start is by going to the SF Rec and Park website here and click "Join an Existing Garden."

HOW DO I START MY OWN GARDEN OR URBAN FARM?

If you are are interested in transforming an urban space into a community garden, Click here for a guide to key considerations on the process in the city of San Francisco.

Also, The San Francisco Urban Agriculture Alliance - a collective of advocacy groups, community gardens, urban agriculture education groups, urban farms, and miscellaneous urban agriculture projects - has created a great guidebook detailing all of the steps necessary to start your own garden or urban farm.

Factors to consider when thinking of starting your own garden or farm include:

Finding Land: Regulations and processes for starting and maintaining your own garden will vary, depending on whether the land is privately or publically owned. You’ll have to use your own land, or broker a deal with someone who owns land.

Intended Use: Home gardens, gardens and urban farms on privately-owned land, neighborhood agriculture (less than one acre in size), large-scale urban agriculture (greater than one acre in size).

Plans for Yield: Decisions on what you do with your produce yield -whether you donate or sell it- is also a consideration.

City Departments you may need to work with in order to start your project include, but are not limited to:

City Planning Department

Department of Building Inspection

Bureau of Fire Prevention and Investigation

Recreation and Park Department

WHAT DO I NEED TO START A PLOT? HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

Regardless of whether you choose to start your own site or join an existing garden, the most important thing you need to get started is your will and energy!

Materials needed for a new site:

  • Your energy
  • Tools
  • Soil
  • Mulch
  • Compost
  • Seeds
  • Plants
  • Irrigation equipment

Materials needed to join an existing garden:

  • Your energy
  • Seeds
  • Plants
  • Tools (optional, many have shared tools)
  • Compost or Soil

It’s important to note that some organizations provide resource sharing, so you might not need to buy everything on your own.

The cost of an urban gardening project will depend on the size of your project. If you choose to volunteer or used shared materials, of course, the cost is free! Garden plots range from $10 - $40 per year to be a garden member (a rule that is self-imposed by each community gardens’ guidelines. Recreation and Park Department does NOT charge any additional fees on top of what each garden asks of its members).

If you have larger ambitions, funding opportunities are also available.

As far as seeds and other gardening materials go, that is all dependent on what you want to grow and how much! We’d suggest finding out more about where you want to garden in order to get a better idea of how much it might cost.

WHAT CAN I GROW IN SAN FRANCISCO?

What you choose to grow will affect your costs, materials, and how you plan your physical garden as well as your gardening calendar. Fortunately, we are blessed with a mild, year-round growing climate in San Francisco, which affords us the ability to grow most common fruit and vegetables.

When choosing what to grow, you’ll want to pay attention to your neighborhood’s growing climate. While the National Gardening Association provides an interesting national-level map for climate zones, the West Coast, and Fog City in particular, is characterized by various microclimates which affect plants differently. Luckily, the great Pam Peirce outlines the different climate zones in her incredible book, Golden Gate Gardening.

Below is a summary of San Francisco’s gardening climate zones, by neighborhood:
Fog Belt

Diamond Heights

Ingleside

Lake Merced

Richmond

Sunset/Parkside

West of Twin Peaks

Transition Zone

Eureka/Noe Valleys

Excelsior

Glen Park

Haight

Pacific Heights

Western Addition

Sun Belt

Bernal Heights

Hunters Point/Bayview

Mission

Russian/Telegraph Hill

South of Market

You can use each of the neighborhood climate zone classifications above to determine how sunny or foggy of an environment in which you’ll be gardening, and follow the tables below to guide your planting calendar. These are drawn from San Mateo and San Francisco Master Gardeners.

WHAT IF I WANT TO GET INVOLVED IN THE FOOD SYSTEM AND GARDEN?

Our friends at Civil Eats have created this great guide to changing the food system.

http://civileats.com/2014/05/13/want-to-change-the-food-system-heres-where-to-start/

WHAT IS FOOD JUSTICE AND FOOD SECURITY?

Food justice “seeks to ensure that the benefits and risks of where, what, and how food is grown, produced, transported, distributed, accessed and eaten are shared fairly. Food Justice represents a transformation of the current food system, including but not limited to eliminating disparities and inequities”(from the book Food Justice). Urban agriculture is one approach to addressing food justice. Please see the following organizations below for more information:

Just Food, NYC: http://www.justfood.org/food-justice

Planting Justice, City Slicker Farms, and People’s Grocery, Oakland: https://www.plantingjustice.org/resources/links

Earthworks Urban Farm, Detroit: http://www.cskdetroit.org/EWG/markets_programs/food_justice/

Community Food and Justice Coalition, Nationwide: http://comfoodjustice.org/

La Via Campesina, International: http://viacampesina.org/en/

Interested in starting a new project? Please complete this checklist form to the best of your ability and then contact the Urban Ag Coordinator.

Information and Inventory Form (PDF)

Information and Inventory Form (Word doc)

These are three different examples of Urban Ag sites in San Francisco.

Little City Gardens

18th and Rhode Island

Koshland Park Community Garden/Community Grows