The Value of Urban Agriculture: A Community’s Perspective

Liam Farin, “The Value of Urban Agriculture: A Community’s Perspective”
Mentor: Arijit Sen, Architecture
Oral Presentation Block 1

Urban agriculture has existed for thousands of years, dating back to Ancient Mesopotamia. However, urban agriculture (UA) in its current form and the field that researches it only surfaced in the 1970s. Our research shows that modern UA has important implications involving child engagement, connecting community members with each other and their culture, and more. Since its resurgence, researchers have come to understand UA in a multitude of ways, many centering on justice: environmental, social, and food justice. In their 2014 paper, Wolch et al. touch on the difficulties of making communities “just green enough” to provide the environmental benefits of UA spaces (including the promotion of physical activity and psychological well-being) without displacing disenfranchised communities. In 2018, Pettygrove et al. released research demonstrating that UA is deeply rooted in food activism, providing alternatives to conventional food systems, creating antihunger initiatives, and advocating for legislature, all while noting the complicated relationship community efforts have with neoliberalism. While there is more thought to attend these ideas, one neglected area has been understanding what UA means to gardeners in marginalized communities. In the 2019, 2020, and 2021 Buildings Landscapes Cultures Field School, researchers conducted oral history interviews with residents of the Sherman Park and Washington Park neighborhoods in Milwaukee. These were generalized interviews that sought to listen to the ideas, interests, and record the histories of these residents. Researchers were able to listen back to these interviews, as well as interviews by urban studies master’s student Nateya Taylor, to document the diversity of opinions and arguments around UA shared by community members. This research is qualitative and ethnographic, relying on semantic analysis to interpret these opinions and apply them to UA. This work is important in understanding what motivates urban gardeners and to document how these gardeners see UA impacting their communities.