Community Gardens & Food Security

History

Food security is achieved when access to sufficient, safe, affordable, nutritious, and culturally appropriate foods is present at all times. The City of Billings - Community Development division created a Community Garden and Food Security Initiative as a part of the Billings Metro VISTA Project. Two AmeriCorps VISTA members worked on the initiative from July 2010 to July 2011 to increase food security within the community. As a result, several community gardens were created and are sustained by local nonprofit organizations today.

Recent Initiatives

In 2017, the City of Billings' Community Development Division began spearheading a three-year urban agriculture initiative to promote food security and economic prosperity that included the following objectives: create community and container gardens; increase access to affordable, fresh produce; promote retail venue distribution / farmers markets to sell healthy food options in food deserts; and promote cost-saving urban agriculture design to save utility costs for low-income households. Through a community capacity-building approach, VISTA members work in partnership with individuals, community groups, businesses, and agencies to help develop the skills, resources and support needed to create and sustain food security initiatives.

Xeriscaping

Xeriscaping is the practice of designing landscapes to reduce or eliminate the need for irrigation. This means xeriscape landscapes need little or no water beyond what the natural climate provides. It is a practical alternative to traditional lawns and gardens that is mutually beneficial to the homeowner and yard.

  • Xeriscaping - Basic Information Card
  • Xeriscaping 101 - Presentation (PDF)
  • Xeric Garden Design Examples -  Drawings & Info
  • Xeriscaping 101 - Video (MP4) In this video, AmeriCorps VISTA Emilie Burditt walks you through the seven steps to a successful xeric garden. She covers what xeriscaping is, the basic principles of this environmentally-friendly gardening practice, and resources to further your garden knowledge.
  • Xeriscaping Plan Examples - AmeriCorps VISTA Inanna Hencke created the following plans as examples of how xeriscaping might be incorporated on residential properties:
    • FULL Xeriscaping Plan: For a single-family, 1,234 square foot modular home. The property is located in the Billings Heights. This plan includes multiple rock colors and sizes, native plants, dry creek beds, patio pavers, etc.
    • MINIMAL Xeriscaping Plan: For the same single-family, 1,234 square foot modular home. This plan includes fewer rock colors and sizes, no plants, and just one dry creek bed.

Magic City Community Gardens Coalition (MCCGC)

VISTA member Jackie Patten recruited local community gardens, landscaping businesses, and sustainability organizations in 2019-2020 to create the Magic City community Gardens Coalition. Their stated purpose is to "coordinate and communicate resources, workshops, donations and general gardening knowledge across these organizations to increase access to food security in our community." Please visit their website for more information.
 
MCCGC Partners

Community Seed Bank
MCCGC opened a Community Seed Bank at the Billings Public Library. The seed bank is a gardening resource center (i.e., seed-saving classes, community gardening workshops, events and local contact information, etc.). A set of organized drawers is open to the public. Community volunteers operate the seed bank and people "check out" seeds free of charge. Inventory is tracked through a catalog system and seeds are replenished every season through donations from gardeners.

Victory Gardens Donation Program
Many in our community are faced with food insecurity and there is a significant need for food assistance. Each community garden is therefore planting, tending, harvesting and delivering fresh produce to local distribution agencies. Collectively, these gardens have donated thousands of pounds of fresh vegetables each season to local food banks and nonprofits in Billings. Local gardeners have also stepped up to help alleviate food insecurity in Billings by planting one or two extra vegetables in their personal plots. Seeds are provided free of charge to gardeners willing to nurture plants to maturity and donate the produce. This program provides gardeners an opportunity to support and strengthen their community. Join us as we harvest hope throughout our city!

Victory Gardens recipients include:  Salvation Army, RiverStone Health, Hannah House Ministries, Ronald McDonald House, Family Services, Billings Food Bank, Passages, Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch, Family Tree Center, Montana Rescue Mission, Senior Citizen Center, Community Hope, and Peace Lutheran Church.

Community Gardens

The following garden initiatives have been supported through the Billings Metro VISTA Project:

The following community gardens are managed and supported by faith-based organizations:

VISTA Gardens in the News!

Here are a few of the City's VISTA-supported community garden projects featured in the Billings Gazette: