Consuming the city: making space for foraging in Toronto's parks

Authors: Anna Shortly*, University of Toronto
Topics: Environment, Urban and Regional Planning, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: urban parks, edible landscapes, human-nature relations
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 12:40 PM / 2:20 PM
Room: Maurepas, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Foraging for wild species, such as berries, mushrooms, and weeds, is not currently permitted in many urban parks across North America. Traditional urban conservation agendas and park design have resulted in what Gobster (2007) calls the ‘museumfication’ of nature, where park uses are narrowly restricted to aesthetic enjoyment and recreation; hands-on interaction with nature and ‘productive’ uses of nature are consequently seen as out of place in urban green spaces. Nonetheless, urban foraging is an ongoing and increasingly popular practice in many cities. Research to date has found that foragers foster a deeper connection with nature, maintain cultural identities and practices, and participate in environmental stewardship through foraging. However, the potential for overharvesting and environmental damage as a result of a large urban population’s pressure on plant communities limits foraging’s positive implications for fostering human-nature relationships in the city and increasing equitable access and control over public green spaces. With a focus on urban foraging in the context of Toronto, Canada, this paper considers how parks managers and planners could respond to and accommodate urban foraging in public parks while maintaining existing values regarding ecological integrity and conservation. I conclude that establishing spaces where foraging can occur, like publicly accessible food forests and community orchards, will provide beneficial opportunities for the public to engage in foraging, cultivate stronger relationships with urban nature, and access fresh, free food.

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