The King Farm group fights to keep a community garden in Rockville’s Farmstead Park

The King Farm Community Garden in Rockville’s Farmstead Park

Kate Gould described the King Farm Community Garden in Rockville’s Farmstead Park as a “happy place” for residents who use its 39 plots for gardening.

Over the years, hundreds of community garden members have shared their produce with the community and donated food to the non-profit Manna Food Center in Gaithersburg. It’s a way for neighbors to strengthen their relationships with each other, according to Gould, who is president of the gardening group.

Gould said when the pandemic started, the garden’s waiting list for plots grew “exponentially” as people spent more time outdoors.

“We all really appreciated having a place in nature where we could go, outdoors and safely,” Gould said. “It also brought the gardeners together, because we share this experience.”

That could change, however. On July 18, Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton and members of the Rockville City Council are expected to assess proposed alternative long-term uses for the farm that could result in the garden being lost or relocated. The park consists of 7 acres and includes a grill, picnic tables, off-street parking, and portable restrooms.

The King Farm Community Garden has formed a task force to save the farm and garden, Gould said. This task force aims to work with the mayor and council to find uses that will maintain the nature of the park and its historic district, according to the task force.

The town of Rockville took control and responsibility for King Farm Farmstead in the mid-1990s, according to a report presented to the board by Partners for Economic Solutions in April. Various operations have occupied the space since then, with eight structures remaining today. Efforts to maintain shifting structures are “quite costly,” according to the report.

Going forward, the city wants to continue the continued occupation of the space, the report says. Ideas include doctor’s offices, restaurants, performing arts spaces, child care centers and rental housing.

“We don’t have any plans yet,” said Tim Chestnutt, Rockville Recreation and Parks Director. “The challenge has been figuring out what the end use should be.”

Many options focus on revenue-generating uses for the farm, which would require additional parking, according to the report.

“It will be a big shock if a decision is made that changes the farm significantly,” Gould said. “It’s hard to imagine those kinds of uses being compatible with its use as a park and a place of recreation.”

Considering how “underutilized” the King Farm Village Center commercial district is, community garden members are questioning the prospects for an additional commercial enterprise to be located on the farm, according to an article that members of the group of work have written for The King Farm Chronicle, a community newspaper.

Farmstead Park is King Farm’s only permanently designated park, as two others, Mattie Stepanek Park and King Farm, are designated for future school sites, according to the task force.

Residents can share their comments with city officials during the community forum portion of the July 18 council meeting, Chestnutt said.

Christine Zhu of Gaithersburg, a rising junior at the University of Maryland studying journalism and Spanish, is Bethesda Beat’s summer intern.

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