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Community Gardens: Budget & Fees

Written by Chris Zdorovtsov (former SDSU Extension Community Vitality Field Specialist).

In order to have a sustainable project, it is very important to identify all of the expenses that are involved in the operation of your community garden.  Are there costs associated with utilizing the site, site preparation (tilling, plowing, soil testing, or soil amendments), on-site resources (hose, fencing, or shared tools), marketing the garden, water usage, or insurance?

Across the state we see a wide range of fees, typically from $0 (no charge) to around $35/season for garden plots. However ultimately your costs should be totaled and then divided by the number of plots to determine the individual fee for garden usage. (Plot number x fee = total income)  Grants, in-kind donations and volunteers can help diminish costs and reduce what is required for fees. Do not overlook formulating a plan for when these funding sources dry up.

Even if grant funds could be utilized to cover the basic costs, some garden coordinators in the state have suggested that they have had better success when they had a plot fee. In years that they allowed free plots, they found many community members signed up, but did not follow-up with using the garden.

A few sources for exploring nationally available grants include: American Community Gardening Association Funding Opportunities and Kid’s Gardening Grants & Funding.

If a goal of your garden is to provide land access for all interested in growing their own food, you will likely want to consider scholarships or a sliding scale for lower income participants. Be sure to consider the discounted rate when calculating your income for the project.

This Community Garden Budget Tool can be utilized for penciling out a 3-year community garden budget. Don’t forget to determine who will keep track of payments and pay the bills, and where your funds will be housed.

Below are examples of water usage from two Sioux Falls Community Garden sites. Keep in mind that the cost/unit will vary from community to community, so contact your local provider to get the current rates.

Year Site 1 (.22 acres) Site 2 (.26 acres)
2010 25 units 18 units
2011 96 units 34 units
2012 113 units Closed for Season
*Information provided by the City of Sioux Falls.