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CHAPTER 1 Cities of Farmers Problems, Possibilities, and Processes of Producing Food in Cities julie dawson and alfonso morales Growing food in our cities affects every aspect of urban life. Urban agriculture can enhance local ecology, foster cohesive communities, and improve the quality of life for urban residents. However, these benefits can be hindered by tensions inherent in this emergent practice, requiring the reconstruction of personal habits and expectations for urban landscapes, as well as the reshaping of regulations to provide for such activities. Urban agriculture has the potential to improve the health and vitality of our communities, but realizing that potential often requires change to both the physical and political landscapes. In short, urban agriculture is one component of a larger urban food system, and to understand urban agriculture, it is necessary to understand the linkages between production, distribution, policies, and regulations. It is also important to bring out the relationship between peri-urban or rural agriculture and urban agriculture. While usually treated separately, these production systems are often interlinked in urban food systems, and opportunities exist to strengthen these linkages rather than hold rural and urban production in opposition. 4 introduction and historic al antecedents In this book we advance the idea that urban agriculture is a unique production system, worthy of study on its own while at the same time sharing connections to other food system activities. We will also show how the practices of urban agriculture rest in a larger scaffolding of social and political organization. The authors of these chapters show that urban-agriculture systems are made up of interrelated activities that—as with all systems—involve interrelated parts, each with its own historical context and internal dynamics. The formula for success for any particular system varies with the context and the particular goals of those involved. The book also provides concepts and examples of activities related to how larger historical circumstances, social expectations and pressures, and other institutional spheres, like the law, influence people doing urban food system activities. urban agriculture in context The essays in this book explore the significant benefits and challenges of urban agriculture, mapping the complex economic, social, political, and ecological systems that make up a food biome in an urban environment. They show how growing food in vacant lots and on rooftops affects labor, capital investment, and human capital formation, and how urban agriculture intersects with land values and efforts to build affordable housing. Furthermore, they exemplify how municipal regulation of economic and urban-agriculture activities plays a key role in whether urban agriculture can flourish, while research has demonstrated that community gardens and fresh produce offer significant improvements in community and individual health. Our purpose in providing this collection is to expose students, practitioners, scholars, and urban policy makers to common examples, ideas, and language for discussing, implementing, and evaluating urban-agriculture production practices in their local contexts. The book is a comprehensive examination of urban-agriculture systems, exploring the history, regulation, production, distribution, and health benefits of urban food production. This collection seeks to do more than describe aspects of our contemporary urban-agriculture practices. Our hope is that the content and discussion questions in each chapter will help make the lessons of the research accessible to a variety of different audiences and, perhaps most important, provide concepts and examples that render these lessons actionable. Cities of Farmers 5 The most meaningful and significant feature of urban or metropolitan agricultural production is its relative integration with other elements of the urban system. Urban food systems influence every human institution and practice. They influence the economy in terms of labor, capital investment, and productive activities, with implications for the value of surrounding housing and other land uses; policy in terms of ordinances and codes regulating different uses and activities, with implications for various uses of public space as in marketplaces; and society, in terms of the variety of health-related outcomes associated with producing, processing, distributing, and consuming food. Different people have different points of entry in their awareness of and interaction with urban-agriculture production. This has implications for both community organizations promoting urban agriculture and policy makers seeking to encourage particular outcomes in their food systems. Likewise, urban-agriculture systems and food systems more generally are influenced by other social institutions, both historical and contemporary. Food system practices have been shaped by a combination of descriptive and normative concerns, with differing perspectives on both how to define urban agriculture and what purposes it should serve. Here...


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