Q: I want to become a
member of community garden. Where do I begin?
community gardens are run by local non-profit organizations, sometimes in
connection with a local university or the local municipality’s community
development department. For more information, check the websites of organizations
such as Civic Garden Center in Cincinnati, Get Green in Columbus and Green City
Growers in Cleveland.
Q: If I want to start my own community garden, how can I obtain land?
A: Some municipalities allow gardeners to lease land directly
from the city, as municipalities benefit by putting vacant plots of land to
use. These programs may allow the gardener to obtain title to the land after they
revitalize the plot for a certain number of years. You may also lease land from
a private individual (via short-term lease agreements), or purchase your own
plot. Some cities may even provide you with a grant to subsidize these initial
gardening is a low-risk activity and injuries are infrequent, both private
parties and cities may require you to buy insurance for liability arising out
of the garden’s operations, and to agree that the owner will not be responsible
for such liability, as a condition of the lease.
Q: What should I consider
when searching for a suitable plot of land?
A: First, you will want to make sure the land is properly zoned.
Plots of land are generally divided into residential, commercial and industrial
uses. These may not permit community gardening activities, depending on the
city. And even if permitted, each zone may restrict the activities. One zone may
restrict the height of structures/vegetation, while another may restrict how
close structures/vegetation can be to neighboring properties. Check with your city
to ensure that your garden will comply with its zoning requirements. Even if
the prospective land is not ideally zoned, however, you may be able to obtain a
variance (or exception) from the local building department for your specific
use. Additionally, if your garden is in a suburban environment, you should be
aware of any relevant homeowner’s association regulations.
also make sure the plot of land contains no environmental hazards, especially
in urban areas. Prior activities on the land, or activities on land surrounding
your plot, may have left behind contaminants. This is particularly important if
you plan to buy the land, because responsibility for such hazards will fall on
you if the local municipality becomes aware of them. Try to find out how the
plot was used in the past, and check with those in the community about the
condition of the land. You might also contact the community’s building
department or the local EPA district office to inquire about testing the
Q: How should I manage the
gardens operate as community endeavors, in which no one member has claim to any
particular plot or plant, and all members are responsible for the whole garden.
Others assign individual plots to specific members. Some gardens are open to
the public, while others are “closed-gate” and open only to members. How your
garden operates is up to you.
Before starting a garden, you should
draft a model gardening agreement that each member must sign. The agreement
should address the manner of the garden’s operation, pertinent rules and
regulations (including rules required by local ordinance on plant and structure
height, location, etc.), the election or appointment of officers who will lead
the garden’s operations (e.g., a president and treasurer), assignment of a
particular plot to each member (if applicable), indemnification of the
landowner, and responsibility for supplies. It should also address the
consequences of taking produce from another member without permission. Such an
agreement will help members understand their role in the garden and will help resolve
any disputes that may arise, which will allow the garden to operate
Q: What should I know if I
want to sell the products of my garden?
A: You are more likely to encounter issues if you sell your
products by setting prices and making profit, as opposed to covering costs
through donations. It would be wise to contact the local municipality to
inquire about a license/permit before trying to sell your garden’s products on
your own. You may also be able to sell your products at a local farmers’
market, though you will likely have to pay a small fee to help cover the
Q: How will a garden
benefit my community?
A: Properly tended community gardens are easier on the eyes than
unkempt vacant lots, and will provide air quality and health benefits to your
community. In addition, studies have shown that the presence of community
gardens helps to strengthen ties among the community, which, in turn, helps
lower crime rates in their neighborhoods.
This “Law You Can Use” consumer
information column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. It was
prepared by Cleveland attorney Justin D. Stevenson, Esq. Articles appearing in
this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law.
Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged
to seek advice from an attorney.
Labels: community garden