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.