Urban agriculture is a hot topic in sustainability, food, and planning circles. From roof and deck gardens to community gardens to urban farms, urban agriculture has captured the imaginations of activists of many stripes as well as gardeners and eaters. When I mention that my academic work focuses on food access in urban areas, the most common response I get is “oh, you mean like urban ag?” As this interest in urban agriculture grows, some are asking whether food sovereignty – the ability for a population to produce enough food to feed itself – is a feasible goal for American cities.
This morning I embarked with three dozen volunteers to plant 10 trees in Pigeon Town, a neighborhood in western New Orleans. The group was completing an eight-hour training on urban greening initiatives, learning everything from pruning methods to how to work with municipalities to find funding for beautification projects—which have been proven to improve everything from real estate values to crime statistics.
The training did not, however, cover what we were supposed to do when we heard gunshots ring out. That we had to improvise.
It's been a great week for city planning here on the East Coast. The American Planning Association's 99th National Conference held in Philadelphia drew more than 6,000 attendees, a fact noticed by Philadelphia Inquirer writer Inga Saffron in her April 13th column titled "Welcome, Welcome City Planners," where she took the opportunity to draw local and national lessons from the event. The APA opened with Robert Kennedy's address on environmental planning and closed with an exploration of the legacy of Edmund Bacon (Philadelphia's director of city planning from 1949-1970), but more about that later.