Fresh food, new faces: community gardening as ecological gentrification in St. Louis, Missouri

Abstract

A largely qualitative body of literature has contributed to understanding the contradictory dimensions of community gardening as a social justice tool. Building on this literature through a city-wide, quantitative intervention, this paper focuses on community gardening as a facilitator of ecological gentrification in St. Louis, Missouri. Combining the analytical lenses of spatial justice, urban political ecology, and the rent gap theory of gentrification, I deploy spatial regression analysis to show that community gardening was positively associated with gentrification in St. Louis between the years 2000 and 2010, as measured by the growth of high socioeconomic status residents in each neighborhood. This result suggests that a sociospatial dialectic exists in which the implementation of a community garden, a change in the use of urban space, leads to unintended social outcomes. Contextualizing this finding within the broader literature, I conclude that the potential of community gardening as an instrument for spatial justice is contingent on institutional support against larger-scale processes, like gentrification, that lead to spatially unjust outcomes.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Spatial error modeling was used over the spatial lag method in accordance with Anselin and Rey’s (2014, p. 110) spatial specification decision tree.

  2. 2.

    This means that only grid squares that touched each grid square’s edges (and not corners) were counted as neighbors in determining spatial dependence.

Abbreviations

LRA:

Land reutilization authority

LTDB:

Brown University’s Longitudinal Tract Data Base

UPE:

Urban political ecology

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Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Ness Sandoval, Christopher Prener, and Phil Brown for offering their valuable guidance throughout the course of this project.

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Correspondence to Taylor Harris Braswell.

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Braswell, T.H. Fresh food, new faces: community gardening as ecological gentrification in St. Louis, Missouri. Agric Hum Values 35, 809–822 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-018-9875-3

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Keywords

  • Community gardening
  • Gentrification
  • Spatial justice
  • Urban political ecology
  • GIS