City solidifies ordinances for urban gardening and farming

Garden at Camelot Elementary School in Federal Way. - Mirror file photo
Garden at Camelot Elementary School in Federal Way.
— image credit: Mirror file photo

The Federal Way City Council voted unanimously to make revisions to the city code to clarify issues regarding urban farming/gardening.

The Nov. 19 vote was the culmination of work that began in 2010, which aimed at addressing and encouraging urban farming and gardening in the city's comprehensive plan.

According to Janet Shull, senior planner for the city, the overall goals of those updates are to:

• Implement the comprehensive plan policies that were adopted in January

• To be responsive to the growing community interest in growing food for health, education and economic benefit

• Remove potential barriers and provide predictability for siting urban agriculture uses

Shull noted the updates set forth a number of definitions for urban farming/gardening. Those definitions include urban agriculture itself, community gardens, cottage food operations, farmers markets, farm stands, pea patch gardens and urban farms.

Other areas the updates include amending the city's sign code to allow for "identification signs for community gardens and urban farms," and amending the "existing use zone charts."

"In summary, urban agriculture uses would be allowed in every zone, but in general, urban agriculture uses would be more limited in our residential zones and some of the ways it would be more limited in size allowed," Shull noted.

The new revisions would also address hours of operation, delivery issues and on-site sales.

Councilmember Bob Celski expressed his enthusiasm for these revisions and the continued growth of community gardens in Federal Way.

"It's very exciting to see these gardens springing up all over our city," he said. "At churches, our schools, at the Senior Center…I certainly hope these continue to grow."

Earlier in the evening, Camelot Elementary teacher Darcy Borg and two of her students, Lily Molloy and Emily Adams, spoke about the positive benefit they've experienced with the community garden at their school.

"I'm here tonight because I value community and education. First of all, I see community at its best, as I am out in the garden at Camelot," Borg said. "I see the garden as becoming the cultural hub of our community. It's bringing all different ages, all different ethnicities, bringing people from various backgrounds together."

Borg, as an educator, said she views the community garden as an outdoor classroom for herself and her students.

"The gardens and the farms are an extension of learning. It's bringing a lot of different ways to learn about our community, ways to learn about our people. At Camelot, it's an extension of our classroom," she said.

Adams said Camelot's garden is important for a variety of reasons.

"I'm here tonight to talk to you about urban agriculture, and for you, the city council, to make a law, so that we, the people of Federal Way, can have our gardens and sell our produce to others," she said. "Some of the families in our community, and the students at our schools, eat the vegetables that grow in our garden…The vegetables (are) fresher and healthier for community than being transported from over the mountains or across the ocean."

Molloy said she's more than happy to stay after school in order to work in the garden.

"I make sure to come to every after-school meeting to learn more about urban agriculture so I can help make the Earth a greener place," she said. "I hope I can convince you to change the law so that the produce we buy is more local, because I'm all about healthy and green foods."

Learn more

Federal Way Community Gardens has gardens located at the Federal Way Senior Center, Truman High School, and Light of Christ Church. Camelot's garden is joined by gardens at Enterprise, Green Gables, Nautilus and Olympic View elementary schools. To learn more, visit


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