Increasing interest and awareness of urban agriculture’s contribution to food access, healthy eating, and community interaction have influenced activists and city officials to re-evaluate this activity’s role in sustainable city planning. While information regarding the spatial extent and socio-economic context of urban agriculture (UA) would be beneficial to city planners and policymakers as well as local communities, these data do not currently exist for most North American cities; moreover, the characteristics of UA sites, such as production practices and management strategies, are virtually unknown. This research addresses this gap through a systems-based approach to urban socio-natural landscapes, where UA sites are viewed as a system composed of three main components: spatial form, social process, and material metabolism. Spatial form was determined through a geospatial analysis of UA distribution within the socio-economic context of Houston, Texas. Both social process and material metabolism were discovered through surveys and semi-structured interviews regarding management strategies and food production practices for 31 UA sites. Qualitative data were analyzed in terms of UA site objectives, access rules, decision making, labor, harvest destination, and challenges. The interconnectedness between UA site objectives and site access was found to influence decision-making strategies, division of labor, and destination of the harvest. Variations in these characteristics indicate numerous circumstances in which UA sites produce food. All UA sites surveyed face challenges such as access to consistent and committed participants, an affordable water source, a safe and secure site, and funding.
- Brannstrom, Christian Professor and Associate Dean