Tag Archives: urban agriculture

Urban Gardening as Response to Food Deserts

In this TEDtalk, Ron Finley discusses his gardening work in South Central LA, where structural racism has created food deserts, health problems, and other systemic injustices among poor communities of colour.  He talks about planting gardens in empty lots, creating farmers markets, putting kids to work, and making gardening sexy.

“To change the community, you have to change the composition of the soil.  We are the soil.”

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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.

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