"Squeezed Between the Gunshots and the Gentrifiers": Urban Agriculture in Philadelphia's Kensington Neighborhood

Authors: Arianna Hall-Reinhard*, West Virginia University
Topics: Urban Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: urban political ecology, urban agriculture, gentrification
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Rampart, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Urban agriculture (UA) is part of the broader alternative food movement and a potential avenue through which to “do” food justice work. UA projects in the urban Global North are frequently motivated by social and food justice goals. Despite these guiding ideals, UA projects in America are rife with internal contradictions, including related to racial inequality, complex gentrification dynamics, and funding realities. In this paper, I employ the conceptual frameworks of food justice and urban political ecology to consider how gentrification, land access, funding sources, and race affect specific UA projects in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood. While the loss of industry and population throughout North Philadelphia in the 1980s and 1990s heavily impacted Kensington, the modern-day neighborhood faces two seemingly-opposing challenges: entrenched poverty and rapidly accelerating gentrification. The twin influences of poverty and gentrification make Kensington a uniquely compelling neighborhood in which to study UA projects and their relationship to gentrification, land access, and race. To this end, qualitative interviews were conducted with UA project managers, volunteers, and supportive staff associated with five specific UA sites in Kensington selected to represent an array of grassroots, nonprofit, and for-profit UA projects. A number of patterns emerge through this case study comparison, including the influence of local racial histories on the formation and persistence of UA projects, the differential effects of gentrification on UA projects (often along racial lines), and the effects of funding structures (grassroots, nonprofit, or for profit) on the existence and/or realization of food justice goals.

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