WSU Whatcom County Extension

Community First! Gardens

Guidelines for Group/Neighborhood Proposal for Partnership


Thank you for your interest in partnering with Community First Gardens to create a community garden in your neighborhood. The CFG team has been formed to help in the creation of community gardens in Bellingham and is excited about working with neighborhoods like yours.

The CFG team at Washington State University Whatcom County Extension has been given a grant from The Mary Redman Foundation to help develop and support community gardens in Bellingham awarding grants to groups. The grants will be used for such things as fences, raised beds, etc., which must be matched by the group/neighborhood (this may be in dollars, volunteer time, or in-kind donations). No part of this grant may be used for wages or salary.

If your neighborhood is interested in working with Community First Gardens to develop a neighborhood garden, you must submit an application. Your application will be due in early Spring.


Follow these guidelines of what is required in your group’s application.

Please submit your application electronically to, in the form of a proposal that describes the neighborhood’s commitment to creating and sustaining a community garden.

Your group's proposal must address each of the following numbered and lettered points:

  1. Show that there is sufficient demand for a community garden in your neighborhood by providing a list of the names of ten families or individuals who are committed to using a neighborhood garden (experience indicates that a “critical mass” of ten families is necessary to maintain a community garden).
  2. Show that there is leadership capacity in your neighborhood for developing a community garden. Provide a list of five people who are committed to taking a leadership role in developing a garden in your neighborhood. These people will form the neighborhood committee that will work with the Community First Gardens Coordinator to design the garden, develop an operational plan, find resources for garden development and write a budget. Contact information for at least two of these people must also be provided.
  3. Show that you have given some thought to how your garden will be structured by providing a potential organizational plan. This should include concepts such as:

a. What general rules will govern the maintenance and use of the garden?

Many models are available; one of the most successful is Seattle’s Pea Patch program ( You can also look to Bellingham Parks and Recreation’s Community Gardening guidelines (this is not available online; you can get a copy from the Parks and Recreation office at Cornwall Park, or from Beth Chisholm, CFG Coordinator). Another excellent resource is the American Community Garden Association’s website (

b. How will the garden operate in conjunction with the neighborhood association?

4. What are your ideas for building the garden? Some things to consider are:

a. Where and how to acquire materials for structures (fencing, raised beds, tool shed, bulletin board, compost bins, etc.), tools, garden materials (soil, seeds), etc.

b. How will the actual work of building the garden be accomplished, and who will do the work?

5. List three possible garden sites, for which your group has evaluated the following (you can request a map of publicly owned lands in your neighborhood from the city; also look to churches and privately owned vacant or under-used lots):

a. Sun exposure: does it receive at least six hours of sunlight each day?

b. Location: is the site accessible and convenient to the neighborhood by bus, foot or personal vehicle? Is it on a relatively quiet street, protected from traffic?

c. Who owns the land? Don’t assume that public land is the best option for a community garden; more gardens on public land are lost than on private land. If it is public, which agency owns it, and how is it zoned? If it’s privately owned, is the owner agreeable to a lease of at least three years? What is the site’s current and past use?

d. Who are the neighbors? It is ideal if the site is observable by nearby residents, which adds to the security of the site. Are the neighbors agreeable to the idea of a community garden?

e. Is there water? If not, what are the possibilities for irrigating a garden?

6. List a few other possible sources for funding/sponsorship, and some ideas for group fundraising. For example, one community gardening group in another region raised money by selling square inches of garden for $5.00. The names of those supporters were listed on a plaque at the garden site, along with an expression of thanks.

See Links page for fundraising ideas.

For details on submitting your proposal, please contact Beth Chisholm, CFG Coordinator at or call (360) 676-6736. (The complete proposal should be no more than six pages long.) Community First Gardens will review applicants as they are received.

Thank you for your interest. If you have questions about the application process or CFG program, please contact Beth Chisholm at:


Contact Information

For more information, contact Beth Chisholm, CFG Coordinator, at:


WSU Whatcom County Extension, 1000 N. Forest Street, Suite 201, Bellingham, WA 98225, (360) 778-5800, Contact Us