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CHAPTER 13 The Coevolution of Urban-Agriculture Practice, Planning, and Policy nevin cohen and katinka wijsman introduction After a century of relative inattention to the food system (Pothukuchi and Kaufman 2000), many cities have developed plans and policies to legalize, rationalize, and institutionalize urban agriculture, and to support innovations in food production (Hodgson, Campbell, and Bailkey 2011; Mukherji and Morales 2010; Thibert 2012; Cohen 2012; McClintock 2014). These plans and policies have been influenced by the practices of urban farmers and gardeners, and in a coevolutionary process plans and policies have shaped their practices. Together, practices, plans, and policies support innovative urban-agriculture systems and thus change what is considered the normal, acceptable, and fair way of using space in the city and producing food. As a result, over the past decade food production has become more fully embedded in urban spaces, daily activities, and government programs, including those not traditionally connected to the food system. This is evident in New York City, which has one of the largest and most diverse urban-agriculture systems in the United States (Cohen, Reynolds, 216 community health and policy perspectives and Sanghvi 2012; Altman et al. 2014). A case study of the coevolution of urban-agriculture practices and plans in New York City illustrates the entanglements of urban-agriculture practitioners, advocates, planners, and policy makers; innovative food production practices that have changed the meaning of urban agriculture; and innovations in practice by city government that have supported urban agriculture. The New York case shows that farmers and gardeners, advocates, and government planners and policy makers can steer systems like urban agriculture by identifying and supporting innovative and sustainable practices, while simultaneously challenging undesirable practices that have become entrenched because of institutionalized rules and norms (Loorbach 2007). coevolution of practice and policy Practices are simply the routine things people do to achieve various goals. They consist of three elements: (1) competencies, or the knowledge of how to do things; (2) material items, including technologies and infrastructure; and (3) meanings, or the ideologies, goals, and cultural understandings that make certain practices acceptable and normal (Shove 2003; Shove, Pantzar, and Watson 2012). The practice of growing food in the city, for example, requires horticultural knowledge and other competencies; space, soil, water, and other material resources; and a cultural milieu that makes gardening and farming in the city appropriate, desirable, and normal. Practices may consist of discrete actions, like the act of cultivating vegetables, but are typically part of interconnected bundles of practices (Warde 2005), such as cooking, composting, and selling, that affect each other. Practices are ubiquitous and largely habitual activities, and though mundane , they can have significant impacts and influence policies by creating demands on infrastructure, public space, natural resources, and public funds. For example, domestic cooking, refrigeration, and dish washing account for one-quarter of household electricity use in the United States (Canning et al. 2010), while food waste from cooking and eating practices amounts to 14.5 percent of municipal waste streams (US EPA 2014). The practice of urban agriculture, bundled as it is to other urban practices, can therefore have a significant effect on a city’s sustainability. The Coevolution of Urban-Agriculture Practice 217 Changes to practices like urban farming and gardening do not occur merely as a result of the aggregate choices of individuals. Rather, they result from changes to the three practice elements made by policy makers, practitioners, advocacy groups, and consumers who support new knowledge and competencies , reconfiguring material elements like infrastructure and increasing the acceptance of alternative practices by reshaping their meanings and helping them become normal. New programs or economic incentives can also “recruit” additional practitioners (Shove and Walker 2010) to engage in practices like farming that diverge from the status quo. These efforts can make what might be considered deviant but sustainable practices (e.g., beekeeping or rooftop farming) normal and everyday. The actors involved in creating and normalizing innovative practices are diverse. For example, government officials may support community gardening networks practicing specific methods of food production or fund new types of urban farms through municipal programs that provide land, material, and tools to gardeners and farmers. Individuals and advocacy groups may start urban-agriculture projects and engage in innovative practices, like offering beekeeping classes, running community-supported agriculture programs, or developing housing with rooftop farms, which then prompt policy responses. Even individuals change policies through their everyday practices, as they raise chickens, prompting health code changes, or take over vacant lots to farm...


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