No Buts About It...The Value of Urban Food Production: Response #4 to Hallsworth and Wong’s viewpoint

  • Evan Weissman Syracuse University
Keywords: Community Gardening, Urban Agriculture

Abstract

First paragraphs:

In their provocative essay, Alan Hallsworth and Alfred Wong (2013) contend that academics, activists, and policy makers exaggerate the benefits of urban food gardening. They state: "There is no basis to expect that [urban gardening] could ever deliver fresher food and/or lower cost foods." The authors attempt to explain the shortcomings of urban gardening as a food security strategy by highlighting its barriers in Vancouver, Canada, especially the climactic obstacles to production in northern regions and the age-old real estate adage of "highest and best land use" that precludes urban food production. Hallsworth and Wong's assumptions could not be more incorrect, and rather than simply stoking debate, the authors unwittingly provide fodder for the detractors of urban agriculture, of which there are many. Indeed, urban gardening plays a significant role within the city as public space, as an economic development strategy, and as a community-organizing tool. Most importantly, urban food production contributes to household food security. To cite just one example from my own research: a ½ acre (0.2 ha) urban farm project in Brooklyn, New York — East New York Farms! — produces over USD20,000 of fresh produce annually in a neighborhood defined by disparities in fresh food access. Over 70 percent of the farm's transactions are made through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (i.e., food stamps), meaning that fresh produce is reaching community members in high need (personal interview with East New York Farms manager, June 15, 2010).

The essay fails to convince precisely because it relies on false assumptions and narrow understandings of urban gardening. Hallsworth and Wong acknowledge the value of only the "personal enjoyment" of growing food and the "socializing" benefits of community gardening. The authors suggest that urban gardening has some redeeming productive capacity, but not for "most people" who believe that "greater [food] security flows from food that is in some way local." Certainly it is a mistake, the authors explain, to think we can "return to the days of 'growing (all) one's own food.'" Yet nowhere in the essay do Hallsworth and Wong justify these assumptions. Urban food production is re-emerging in complex and contradictory ways throughout North America. The growing movement is not predicated on false hopes of its productive potential, but recognizes urban cultivation as one of many approaches to address inequalities in the conventional food system....

Author Biography

Evan Weissman, Syracuse University
Assistant Professor of Food Studies, Department of Public Health, Food Studies, and Nutrition, Syracuse University, The David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics; 304 Lyman Hall; Syracuse, New York 13244-3240 USA; +1-315-443-4295.
Published
2016-08-31
How to Cite
Weissman, E. (2016). No Buts About It.The Value of Urban Food Production: Response #4 to Hallsworth and Wong’s viewpoint. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 3(2), 23-24. https://doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2013.032.014
Section
Viewpoints