Indigenous Food Autonomy in the City: Land Access, Placemaking, and Dignified Life

Authors: Maritza Geronimo*, 1996
Topics: Food Systems, Indigenous Peoples, Cultural Geography
Keywords: Food Geographies, Indigenous migrants, Urban Gardens, Food Autonomy
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 10
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Indigenous migrants in Los Angeles have created autonomous food geographies of belonging, care, and rebellion. Beginning in the early 1990s the South Central Farm (SCF) was one of the early examples of Indigenous migrants reimagining and redesigning urban space to feed their community. Surrounded by warehouses and concrete, the farm struggled to abolish food injustice by creating a place of life and dignity in the urban landscape. The SCF thrived with 90 plots feeding over 300 community members until 2006 when the farm was forced to close due to racist legal battles over the land-use with the property owner. I argue that access to common land when transformed into private property encloses Indigenous migrants’ livelihood and visions for a more just food system. The 14-acre plot continues to sit empty today, which begs the question of who in the city is allowed to make place and have access to collective land. Still, the spirit of the SCF lives on in new garden projects. Despite limited access to land, Indigenous migrants have found creative solutions for growing food communally. Repurposing empty lots, backyards, and sidewalks for communal gardens, Indigenous migrants continue to create infrastructures of care and life. By centering Indigenous migrants’ epistemologies of the land and food systems, I highlight the role of placemaking and land access in struggles for food autonomy in Los Angeles. The South Central Farm and contemporary urban gardens led by Indigenous migrants map the path to radical autonomous food futures in the city.

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