Urban Farms and Growing Communities
Posted by Matthew Brian Hersh on July 23, 2012
Urban farming has long served as a way for distressed communities to turn blighted land into socially and economically productive community spaces—a means of stabilization illustated in Alex Kotlowitz's report in Mother Jones this month. His report, supplmented by an excellent photo essay, indicates a direct correlation between urban farming and greening and crime reduction:
[U]rban farming and greening not only strengthen community bonds but also reduce violence. In 2000, Philadelphia had 54,000 vacant lots, and so the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society reclaimed 4,400 of them, mowing lands, providing upkeep, planting trees and gardens, and erecting three-foot-high fences that served no purpose other than as a kind of statement that this land now belonged to someone. The greening of these parcels (just 8 percent of the vacant land in the city) had an unexpected effect: Over the course of 10 years, it reduced shootings in the areas surrounding these renewed lots. Part of it was practical: The vacant lots had previously been hiding places for guns.
The article makes its case largely through its narrative; interviewing individuals from efforts that include Chicago's Growing Home and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. Rooflines blogger Jeremy Liu recently examined the Good Food Movement, making a strong case that the community development movement should use its talents "to serve as a catalyst" for the Good Food Movement.
The positive community effects of urban farming have been well documeted, but we'd like to know more—have you seen recent research that examines the on-the-ground effects of urban farming? Tell me about it in the comment field below.
More from Shelterforce:
- Greening Vacant Land, Arionna Brasche, fall 2010
- Making Food Deserts Bloom, Kari Lydersen, summer 2008
About the author more »
Matthew Brian Hersh proudly served as senior editor at Shelterforce from March 2008 to October 2012. He studied English at Rutgers University and has spent his professional career in journalism, policy, and politics. He displays many of the trappings of a New Jersey sports fan: dispirited Mets fan, former Nets fan before they left the state, and normally satisfied Giants fan. Hersh lives in Highland Park, NJ with his wife and two children.