Milwaukee Community Gardens

Below is some basic information on how to start or run a community garden in Milwaukee. If you have more questions, please contact HOME GR/OWN via e-mail or 414-286-3748.

Community garden resources in the Milwaukee area.

There are several great organizations that can help you learn about gardening.

  • Alice's Garden (414) 687-0122
  • Groundwork Milwaukee (414) 763-9947
  • Growing Power (414) 527-1546
  • Milwaukee County UW Extension (414) 256-4664
  • The Urban Ecology Center (414) 964-8505
  • Victory Garden Initiative (414) 431-0888
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What is considered a community garden?

A community garden is "any use of land or a premises for the growing of crops, plants or other vegetation by a group of individuals or by a public or non-profit organization. This use includes composting and the raising of crops, native vegetation or fruit not otherwise in violation of this code. It also includes the sale of produce and ornamental crops grown on-site. This use does not include a commercial farming enterprise or outdoor storage facilities."

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Do I need a community garden permit?

Yes. You are required to apply for a no-cost permit from the City of Milwaukee Development Center. You can access the permit application HERE.

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Can one individual operate a community garden?

No. An individual wanting to grow food for profit would apply for Commercial Farming Enterprise approval. A community garden is designed for successful neighborhood involvement and support. A community garden is for a community group or multiple individuals.

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How do I get a community garden permit?

The permit is available HERE. Fill out the permit application, and either mail or bring to the City of Milwaukee Development Center.

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I want to start a community garden on City-owned land. What is the process?
  1. Complete a Community Garden permit application found HERE. If you need help completing the application, contact Tim McCollow.
  2. Email, mail or drop off the application with Yves LaPierre, Department of City Development (DCD), Real Estate; 809 N. Broadway, Milwaukee, WI 53202.
  3. City staff will forward the application to the alderperson representing the district where the garden is located. NOTE: We recommend you contact the alderperson prior to submitting an application to make them aware of your project. Find your alderperson here.
  4. The alderperson has 10 days from receiving the application to inform City staff whether the garden should be denied, based on criteria outlined in city ordinance.
  5. Once the permit is approved, you will be contacted by City staaff to complete any remaining paperwork. A seasonal garden license will be issued to your group by Yves LaPierre of DCD.
  6. If the permit is denied, Yves will contact you to inform you of permit denial. We suggest working with your alderperson to then refine your project to remove the obstacles to your alderperson’s approval of your application and resubmit your application.

There is detailed information HERE.

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I would like to start a community garden on privately owned land. What is the process?
  1. Complete a New Community Garden permit application found HERE. If you need help completing the application, contact Tim McCollow, 414-286-3748 or tmccol@milwaukee.gov.
  2. Mail or drop off the application at the City of Milwaukee Development Center: 809 N. Broadway, Milwaukee, WI 53202.
  3. City staff will forward the application to the alderperson representing the district where the garden is located. We recommend you contact the alderperson prior to submitting an application to make them aware of your project. Find your alderperson here.
  4. The alderperson will have 10 days from receiving the application to inform City staff whether the garden should be denied, based on criteria outlined in the city ordinance.
  5. If the permit is approved, you will be issued the permit.
  6. 6. If the permit is denied, City staff will contact you to inform you of permit denial. We suggest working with your alderperson to then refine your project to remove the obstacles to your alderperson’s approval of your application and resubmit your application.
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What are my options for getting water to my community garden?

Low Cost Options:

  • Obtaining a Hydrant Permit through Groundwork Milwaukee to utilize the fire hydrant closest to your vacant lot.
  • Rainwater harvesting techniques, contact ReFlo for more information.
  • Sometimes making an arrangement with the neighbor adjacent to your vacant lot to utilize their water hose is feasible.

Higher Cost Option:

  • Have a water tap installed on the vacant lot, which can cost up to $10,000+
  • Contact City of Milwaukee at (414) 286-8211 for more information.
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Can I sell vegetables, fruit, or ornamental plants that have been grown on-site at our community garden?

Yes. You can sell products on-site that have been grown at that same location.

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Is there a cost for a community garden permit?

No.

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Can a community garden permit be revoked during the growing season?

Yes. If there have been multiple code violations reported to the City's Department of Neighborhood Services, the City has the authority to revoke the community garden permit. Examples of code violations that could lead to revoking a community garden permit include:

  • Cars parked on the vacant lot space
  • After-sunset parties held on the site
  • Vermin complaints from compost piles
  • Not keeping the grass cut
  • Not cleaning up the property by December 1
  • A community garden started but not finished
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What if I already have a community garden, am I required to get a permit?

All community gardens in existence as of June 1, 2014 are not required to get a permit for this growing season. A permit will be required for the 2015 growing season.

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Can we compost at a community garden or commercial farming enterprise?

Yes, but the size and placement of compost bins is restricted under current regulations. Compost bins must be no taller than 5 feet, covered and they cannot exceed 125 cubic feet. Click HERE for the City ordinance, Sec. 79-12.5.

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What are the different types of accessory structures allowed on a community garden or CFE?

Accessory structures allowed include large agricultural building, hoop house, shed, and rain catchment systems.

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Can I sell vegetables and fruit grown on-site at our community garden?

Yes.

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Can I sell ornamental crops (flowers, perennials, shrubbery) that were grown on-site at our community garden?

Yes.

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Can I sell compost produced on-site at a community garden?

Yes.

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Can I sell on-site at a community garden processed food under Wisconsin’s pickle law?

No. Only the sale of un-bagged, whole fruits and vegetables and ornamental crops produced on-site is allowed. Sale of cut, packaged fruits and vegetables or ready-to-eat foods is prohibited.

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