Tag Archives: gentrification

The Garden (2008) Documentary

This documentary follows the struggle of a poor, primarily Latino community in South Central LA to save a huge community garden/farm–the largest urban farm in the U.S.  It’s among the best food documentaries I’ve seen, because it doesn’t romanticize food and it gets at the deeper issues surrounding urban farming, including poverty, gentrification, racism, development, and subsistence.  The farmers self-organized to save the farm and used court injunctions, public outreach, media campaigns, and direct action to defend the farm from destruction, after the owner decided he wanted to evict the farmers.  It was never entirely clear what the land was going to be used for instead of a garden: a soccer field?  An industrial development?  In the end, it doesn’t matter: from the point of view of capital, anything is better than people using land for subsistence.

It came out in 2008 and is available as a DVD… or as a torrent, if you’re into that.

Co-opting the Coop

Kirby, Marianne – Co-opting the Coop –  What’s the real cost of homesteading’s new hipness?

This article makes a distinction between ongoing homesteading for survival among poor and marginalized communities, and hipster homesteading that has now become cool.  Kirby argues that hipster homesteading not only ignores and erases these histories; “The mainstream appropriation of poor skills might sell books, but it might also be detrimental to the people who do depend on these skills for survival. Simply put, the appropriation of poor skills by the mainstream can end up further marginalizing already marginalized populations who still rely on those skills.”  There are some sharp critiques of hipster homesteaders in this article, but it’s not clear what the implications are, other than the idea that we should “examine our practices” and acknowledge “the idea that poor and immigrant populations might be directly involved in the broader homesteading movement, to the benefit of everyone involved”

In contrast to previous homesteading practiced by poor people, Kirby explains that contemporary urban homesteading is often “practiced by single [privileged] people and single families.”  Kirby documents an extreme case of co-optation, in which the Urban Homestead Project has copyrighted ‘urban homesteading.’  She also points to destruction of ecosystems by wildcrafters and foragers, and the appropriation and commodification of homesteading skills.

Another problem Kirby cites is that “Rising costs from the commodification of poor skills can also leave poor people who still rely on these skills further marginalized,” such as designer chicken coops.  More broadly, she argues that increased demand will lead to skyrocketing prices, placing essentials out of reach of poor people who have been relying on them.

In terms of policy, she points to government attempts to regulate the ‘wrong’ kind of homesteading, policing forms of subsistence that don’t look pretty or gentrified.  She contrasts Denise Morrison, who relied on her garden for subsistence and medicine, to hipster homesteaders.  Morrison’s garden was destroyed for looking untidy, while “the cool kids are lauded for their revolutionary interest in a gentrified version of subsistence farming.”

Evolution or gentrification: Do urban farms lead to higher rents?

This is a short editorial-type article on the relationship between urban agriculture, community gardens, and gentrification.  The author is a white urban farmer working in Detroit, critical of his own (potential) role in gentrification.  He draws links between gentrification and the shift from community gardens to urban for-profit farming, alongside increased white farmers and yuppies.  He makes some a somewhat vague distinction between gentrification and real community development, but the article doesn’t hinge on this difference.  He has practical suggestions and responses, which don’t solve gentrification, but at least self-consciously respond to it:

  1. Root your organization in social justice, (which for him meant changing hiring practices, decision-making, and developing partnerships)
  2. Learn about the history of food/farming/growing in the city you’re in, and work with that history
  3. Listen actively, take criticism graciously, don’t take credit for a bunch of good ideas, seek out established leaders/mentors