There are many ways to start gardening in San Francisco. A great place to start is by going to the San Francisco Recreation and Park website for community gardens.
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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:
The benefits of Urban Agriculture are also numerous, but include:
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.
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 43 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.
If you are interested in transforming an urban space into a community garden, view a guide (PDF) 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.
City Departments you may need to work with in order to start your project include, but are not limited to the City Planning Department, the Department of Building Inspection, the Bureau of Fire Prevention and Investigation, and the Recreation and Park Department.
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 include:
Materials needed to join an existing garden:
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 to $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).
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 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. The following is a summary of San Francisco’s gardening climate zones, by neighborhood.
You can use each of the neighborhood climate zone classifications to determine how sunny or foggy of an environment in which you’ll be gardening.
Our friends at Civil Eats have created this great guide to changing the food system.
Food justice seeks to ensure that the benefits and risks of where, what, and how food is produced, transported, distributed, 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 for more information: