Fresh Vegetables in the Age of Growth Management

Maybe there is a simple solution we’re not thinking about, but Vivian Henderson of KAPO fame raised a question last night (Monday) that is worth discussing here, assuming anyone still reads this blog.

KAPO, for the uninitiated, is the Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners. The organization tends to rally for the rights of property owners to do what they want with their properties. They’re often against land-use rules that are designed to soften the impact of development on the environment. The idea of zoning that limits people to smaller places tighter together, allowing more land to remain undeveloped is a “pack ’em and stack ’em” philosophy that doesn’t let people do what they want, if I’ve characterized KAPO’s philosophy correctly.

Anyway, Henderson told Kitsap County commissioners Monday she had a conversation with state Rep. Kathy Haigh, D-Shelton, and the two were talking about how it was a shame people couldn’t grow their own food anymore.

Perhaps this is a personal issue for me, because we have a nice big yard that we do plan to grow food on. Plus, our neighbors made available some pea patches they have in their backyard for us to grow and share vegetables on, at least until we get our yard figured out. We’ve got tomatoes growing off one of our decks in those contraptions that let you grow them upside down. It’s our first year doing this and we’re hopeful, though I wouldn’t say confident.

The concept of growth management is to have people living with smaller yards. Not everyone needs a swimming pool and a pickle ball court on site. And at the same time, if a mass of people decided they wanted to depend less on the grocery store for food, resulting in fewer car trips and benefiting the environment in that way, it would be harder to do under growth management. And yet without growth management, you have the never ending sprawl that is Los Angeles, which is where I grew up.

I’ve probably only scratched the surface here. Dig in.

9 thoughts on “Fresh Vegetables in the Age of Growth Management

  1. Please do outline how it is possible to end up with “the never ending sprawl” when you limit building to 1 house per 1.25 acres? You can “pack em in” without putting 30 houses per acre. 30 houses per acre instantly results in LA style living. Mostly cement, very little “green”.

    I know the argument is that they offset it with “green spaces” but the reality is that 20 years from now some builder will convince the powers that be to let them build there. Next thing you know we have tacoma, only more densely populated.

    I guess my point is that I disagree with you and believe that everyone should have enough room in their yards to at least grow a vegetable garden. With how much acreage is located in kitsap there should be plenty to go around as long as the “planners” get on board. Bottom line…it’s not as profitable for the builders and it’s all about money.

  2. Glitch, I should be more clear that I grew up in the L.A. suburbs. Still lots of cement, but also miles and miles of tract homes with the only real open space being the schools and occasional parks. Except for a few planter boxes filled mostly with ivy our entire backyard was cement. The neighbors who didn’t have pools had room for gardens. My best friend’s family, three doors down, grew some fruits and vegetables.

    Steven Gardner
    Kitsap Sun reporter

  3. Growth Management was written to push growth to cities by increasing densities to limit impacts on the surrounding area AND to protect natural resource lands (agriculture, mining, and forestry most typically).

    So the short answer is yes, as you raise density within cities you put greater stresses on infrastructure, parks, schools etc. And of course there would be less land available for pea patches, per person when things are getting condo-ized.

    The long answer has to do with land aesthetics, economics, and is probably >90% B.S.

    People have always wanted some kind of city/country blend, modern conveniences and space w/o other people. Eat your cake and have it too. The real answer is that anyone who wants to grow vegetable can and does, it may be smaller scale (planters make more sense for renters) and/or more expensive.

    There are lots of great examples of local urban agriculture around Puget Sound, any vacant lot is a potential garden. Land costs are always bad for farming’s bottom line, but people who want a pea patch seem to be able to make it work. My impression of it is that gardening is a lot of work and vegetables are the cheapest thing in the grocery store usually.

  4. I am with you Kyle. Too much weeding pushed upon me as punishment while growing up Although my 8 year old and I spent last summer growing tomatoes, collecting data every week and making it into a Science Fair project (he received a blue ribbon for it). I purchased a topsy turvy and (2) tomato plants of the same size and variety. We grew one plant right side up and one plant upside down. We titled it the Up(s) and Down(s) of Growing Tomatoes. Educational and yummy and took up hardly any space at all.

    Steven, we are still reading this blog, you just need to post items worth commenting on….You know I am kidding with you.

  5. I live in bremerton on a lot roughly .21 acres in size. It is a fairly good size lot I admit, but most of it is hillside. With a little judicious terracing and some creativity we are able to grow enough vegetables to keep us happy in the summer. We also eat potatos, parsnips and carrots well into the winter and in the past have even canned enough beans to last all year.

    We choose garden over lawn and I can’t say I miss the mowing, feeding, watering, seeding, thatching etc.

    It doesn’t take alot of space to yield alot of produce. It would be interesting to talk with those who might remember “victory gardens” during the war. My mother said everyone had as much garden as their property would allow, often with a handful of chickens to go with.

  6. The GMA was designed to control sprawl so that natural resource lands remained available for future generations and so that services could be provided in an efficient way to more densely populated areas. The law also intended that counties would designate lands for agriculture – but Kitsap County didn’t do that. Unlike every other metropolitan county in Washington State we decided that there was no commercial agriculture in Kitsap County and so have no land in the county protected for agriculture. Despite Ms. Henderson’s concerns about there being no space to grow food because we are so crowded – in Kitsap County we are in quite the opposite position. We have allowed almost unlimited development to the complete detriment of all our good quality farmland. As Moosette indicates, it is possible to grow plenty of food in small spaces. For a great example of urban agriculture check out Start Now Gardens in Bremerton (

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