FIELD NOTES: Developing UA in Dallas

Overview map

How do you begin to develop an urban vision for urban agriculture? What are the questions, tasks, and methods you need to employ to move urban farming from a theory to practice?

In mid-2014, I was asked by the Hunt Institute at the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, to develop a vision for urban agriculture with a specific focus on the local refugee population. We confined our task to a 350 hectares (864 acres) of a central district called Vickery Meadow. In answering the statements above, my approach to the task was two-fold.

Firstly, it was quantitative where I created a spatial inventory of land that can be used to produce food. Secondly, it was quantitative, where I spent time in the neighbourhood with the community, embedded as an ethnographer gaining first-hand experience of daily life. It is this innovative approach of combining quantitative data with everyday stories that I argue is essential to developing food systems that are equitable, inclusive and sustainable.

Barriers: Most cities keep spatial data on roads, buildings, or utilities, but few have maps of open spaces suitable for growing food.

Pathways: During a three month period I led a small team through my UA mapping research methodologies, resulting in a detailed quantitive map of Vickery Meadow. These maps were then applied to develop different models of food growing practices such as communal growing, market gardens, or commercial farms.