Graduation Year

Spring 2012

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Environmental Analysis

Reader 1

Char Miller

Reader 2

Matthew Delmont

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© 2011 Alice K. Opalka


This thesis explores the social dynamics of community gardens and their participation within them in the contemporary food justice movement in Seattle, Washington. Community gardens are seen as solutions to myriad urban and environmental problems, such as food deserts, community empowerment, urban greening, environmental education and sustainability of the food system. Three case studies of Seattle organizations, the P-Patch Program, Lettuce Link and Alleycat Acres, provide a basis for analysis of the purported benefit of community empowerment as a function of organizational structure, history and policies. City government support, flexibility, and a critical outlook towards the processes of inclusion and methods of fostering community-based leadership are found to be essential to a garden project. However, the definition of who is the ‘community’ in a community garden is called into question as more potential stakeholders and beneficiaries emerge in a changing and increasingly interconnected city. These networks of organizations and activists, complicated as they may be are a boon to the community gardening scene as they increase avenues for access for more Seattleites to healthy, local food. Community gardens are another representation of the current global movements against social inequalities, and therefore, to take full advantage of this opportunity for social change, community garden organizers must remain critically conscious of who is included and how this participation occurs.


Senior thesis submitted in December 2011.