Garden coalition seeks public input

A recently formed coalition is seeking to support urban gardening efforts.

A recently formed coalition is seeking to support urban gardening efforts, and its proponents are in search of public input.

The Oak Harbor Community Garden Coalition is a new effort by the Whidbey Island Conservation District to conduct outreach among city residents and determine how to best support organizations and individuals engaging in urban farming, gardening and conservation, according to district community engagement manager Allison Rinard.

Rinard said she has been conducting a “situation assessment” and community listening project surrounding community gardening, including holding meetings with stakeholders to form the coalition and putting out a public survey on the topic.

The survey, which can be found on the homepage of the conservation district website at, asks city residents to share their level of interest in a community garden, in which capacities they would like to participate in a community garden and what factors might keep them from participating.

It also asks respondents to share how many servings of fresh fruits and vegetables they eat each day and what factors prevent them from eating more.

The survey closes on April 21 and will be followed by a community meeting May 2. At this meeting, Rinard said, coalition members will go over preliminary findings from the survey and solicit more feedback from attendees.

The ultimate goal of the coalition is not to reinvent the wheel, Rinard said. There are already community gardens in existence, such as the food forest on Bayshore Drive and the SNAP-Ed garden program at the Oak Harbor School District. The coalition will seek to connect existing programs with resources and grant money that the conservation district has access to and reinvigorate programs and efforts that may have lost their funding or core champions.

Tricia Heimer, the SNAP-Ed program coordinator, said partnering with the coalition makes it easier for program personnel to connect with community members.

“SNAP-Ed’s participation with the garden coalition offers us the opportunity to hear from low-income families about how SNAP-Ed can help them make healthy lifestyle choices on a limited budget,” she wrote in an email.

Rinard said she welcomes input from everyone in the city.

“We’re really excited to hear from folks in Oak Harbor,” she said. “We know it’s a really unique and diverse community.”