Urban Farms and Growing Communities

    Urban farming has long served as  a way for distressed communities to turn blighted land into socially and economically productive community spaces—a means of stabilization illustated in Alex Kotlowitz’s report in Mother Jones this month. His report, supplemented by an excellent photo essay, indicates a direct correlation between urban farming and greening and crime reduction:

    [U]rban farming and greening not only strengthen community bonds but also reduce violence. In 2000, Philadelphia had 54,000 vacant lots, and so the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society reclaimed 4,400 of them, mowing lands, providing upkeep, planting trees and gardens, and erecting three-foot-high fences that served no purpose other than as a kind of statement that this land now belonged to someone. The greening of these parcels (just 8 percent of the vacant land in the city) had an unexpected effect: Over the course of 10 years, it reduced shootings in the areas surrounding these renewed lots. Part of it was practical: The vacant lots had previously been hiding places for guns. 


    The article makes its case largely through its narrative; interviewing individuals from efforts that include Chicago’s Growing Home and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. Rooflines blogger Jeremy Liu recently examined the Good Food Movement, making a strong case that the community development movement should use its talents “to serve as a catalyst” for the Good Food Movement.

    The positive community effects of urban farming have been well documented, but we’d like to know more—have you seen recent research that examines the on-the-ground effects of urban farming? Tell me about it in the comment field below.

    More from Shelterforce:

    Matthew Brian Hersh served as senior editor at Shelterforce from March 2008 to October 2012. He studied English at Rutgers University and has spent his professional career in journalism, policy, and politics.


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