Barriers to Household Gardening Among Food Pantry Customers

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Agricultural Sciences

Date of Award

Spring 2022


Access to gardening can be challenging for low-income households. Although other studies have investigated the various benefits of gardening, barriers to gardening are not well understood. A questionnaire was used to gather feedback from 205 food pantry customers in Bemidji, Minnesota about their experiences with gardening and what they proposed would solve the barriers they face. This site was chosen primarily because of the progressive nature of the BCFS Farm Project, a 4-acre farm designed to provide fresh produce and training / experience in agriculture for the food pantry customers. The Bemidji Community Food Shelf is a key promoter of community gardening and subsistence farming in Bemidji and is strategically located among three major American Indian Reservations. Most notably, their farm produced 21,500 pounds of produce in 2021 (Bemidji Community Food Shelf, 2022). Since BCFS is the only food pantry in Bemidji, and since food pantry access is income-based, food pantry customers are representative of low-income Bemidji area residents. This food pantry served 6,200 households by sharing 550,000 pounds of food in 2021 (Bemidji Community Food Shelf, 2022). The study found that although 91% of respondents wanted a garden, only 31% had a garden. The primary barrier - faced by 49% of those without a garden - was lack of space to garden. Other barriers included the cost of tools and seeds, health, knowledge of gardening, bad soil, and lack of time. Suggestions to relieve these barriers included moving to a new home, gaining access to a community garden or permission from a landlord, gardening instructions, learning videos or classes, and programs to distribute gardening supplies. Future research should include similar studies in other locations to ascertain whether some barriers are ubiquitous.


Robert Williams

Subject Categories

Agriculture | Life Sciences | Plant Sciences