Digging in: garden land policy and the just city

Authors: Hannah Ramer*,
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Food Systems
Keywords: Urban agriculture, urban planning, justice racial equity
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 31
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Urban agriculture has the potential to contribute to food sovereignty and spatial justice, but securing long-term land tenure in urban areas remains a major barrier. Many municipalities across North America have adopted policies that allow gardeners access to publicly owned land, though if not carefully designed, these policies can maintain or exacerbate existing racial inequities. Drawing on principles of the ‘just city’, I use a contextualized case comparison approach to explore the radical potential and practical constraints of urban agriculture land policies at two separate institutions: the City of Minneapolis (the City) and the independently-elected Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB). Based on meeting minutes, participant observation, policy documents, and interviews with a range of policy actors, I contend that MPRB had a more extensive and intensive public deliberation process compared to the City and that the resulting policy language was better tailored to addressing barriers to racial equity. However, these gains were provisional, partial, and involved thorny tradeoffs—fertile ground for exploration. Furthermore, the policy has yet to be fully implemented and activists remain skeptical about how well MPRB will deliver on the promise of the policy. The case comparison offers lessons for activists and policymakers seeking a more just urban agriculture policy.

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