Gardens in a postsuburban region

Community garden governance and ethos in Orange County




Community Gardening, Postsuburban Regions, Qualitative Case Studies


Considerable research has examined the changing values and governing approaches of urban com­munity gardens since the nineteenth century in the United States. However, few studies exist for com­munity gardens located in postsuburban contexts. This study reports the findings from six case stud­ies of community gardens in southern Orange County, California, that asked, how are the themes of garden governance and an overarching garden ethos elaborated at community gardens? Our find­ings suggest that gardens manifest one of three governance approaches which we labeled anarchic, democratic, and corporate. In addition, we found two values frameworks or garden ethoses among these gardens. One is a community ethos oriented toward realizing values promoting greater commu­nity engagement, and the other is an individualistic ethos oriented toward promoting the value of gar­dening as an independent activity for each gardener in their plot. We argue that just as gardens in the inner city have been sites to address urban prob­lems, gardens in postsuburban environments might also address perceived shortcomings in postsubur­ban regions. Our findings also suggest that com­munity gardens, particularly in newer suburban developments, reflect a shift in the utopian visions of postsuburban planning away from a consumerist lifestyle to a newer one that enables access to nature and sustained social connections among residents.

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Author Biography

Eiji Toda, Soka University of America

Eiji Toda is now at Portland State University.



How to Cite

Toda, E., & Lowe, E. (2022). Gardens in a postsuburban region: Community garden governance and ethos in Orange County. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 11(2), 161–178.