Urban home food gardens in the Global North: research traditions and future directions
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In the United States, interest in urban agriculture has grown dramatically. While community gardens have sprouted across the landscape, home food gardens—arguably an ever-present, more durable form of urban agriculture—have been overlooked, understudied, and unsupported by government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and academics. In part a response to the invisibility of home gardens, this paper is a manifesto for their study in the Global North. It seeks to develop a multi-scalar and multidisciplinary research framework that acknowledges the garden’s social and ecological or material dimensions. Given the lack of existing research, we draw on the more extensive literature on home gardens in the South and community gardens in the North to develop a set of hypotheses about the social-ecological effects of urban home food gardens in the North. These gardens, we hypothesize, contribute to food security, community development, cultural reproduction, and resilience at multiple scales; conserve agrobiodiversity; and support urban biodiversity. They may also have negative ecological effects, such as stormwater nutrient loading. Because of the entanglement of the social and the ecological or material in the garden, we review three theoretical perspectives—social ecological systems theory, actor-network theory, and assemblage theory—that have been or could be applied to the multi-scalar and multidisciplinary study of the garden. We also review sampling and analytic methods for conducting home garden research. The paper concludes with a discussion of opportunities to extend the research agenda beyond descriptive analysis, the primary focus of garden research to date.
KeywordsUrban agriculture Home garden Global North Ecosystem services Food security Resilience
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