Building Community Capacity through Urban Agriculture

University essay from Lunds universitet/Internationella miljöinstitutet

Abstract: Urban agriculture is promoted as a tool to meet goals of social sustainability. Although urban agriculture as a whole is a large sector of gardening and farming activities within and near urban areas and social sustainability is most affiliated with how the urban environment has been built to foster opportunities to pursue a “good life” for citizens. This thesis contributes to the application of the community capacity model to evaluate the assets and needs of two case studies: Malmö and Minneapolis to determine how urban agriculture can aid municipalities looking to meet social sustainability goals. The research finds that communities are prohibited or enabled by the programs, policies, and resources provided by the municipality. Therefore, the municipality must take a proactive role in fostering the urban agriculture movement. The ability of the community to capture these resources and address problems is limited by the community’s capacity. Malmö has been less able to invigorate a new paradigm of urban agriculture away from the historically grounded allotment (kolonilotten), whereas Minneapolis has engaged in community gardening for decades and is able to capitalize on that experience to expand it to urban farms in addition to community gardens. This outcome is most apparent when analyzing it through the lens of the goals or “function” of the urban agriculture movements of the respective cities. In Malmö the focus is on social sustainability, and therefore the largest benefit is from developing more community gardens. In Minneapolis the goal is to grow the local food movement, and therefore the outcome is the development of larger-scale urban farms. Therefore imparting that the goal or “function” must be framed in a way that addresses context specific needs but also does not over-promise outcomes. Community gardens in particular and urban agriculture in general provide an outlet for people to rebuilt a cultural connection to locally produced food as well as connect within the community to those they would otherwise not meet. It therefore is an effective tool to be used to support social sustainability goals as well as to foster a re-newed food culture.

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