A growing movement
If you're a Land&People subscriber, you know writer David Hanson's work from the spring/summer 2011 issue: his feature on Denver's East 13th Avenue park tells the inspiring story of how a community garden is reconnecting a diverse community of refugees to the land.
The Denver farmers are not alone. From New Orleans to Seattle, Detroit to Brooklyn, city-dwellers are finding ways to grow the food they eat. In his new book Breaking Through Concrete, David and his team road-trip across America to document the growth of urban agriculture.
The Trust for Public Land helps urban farmers across the country create, expand, and safeguard community gardens, transforming informal plots into permanently protected havens for locally grown food. In David's view, matching the passion and dedication of city farmers with the expertise of groups like TPL is an important step for the urban agriculture movement.
"[TPL] can help make community gardens sustainable, so they can withstand the ups and downs and people coming and going—all the things that can grind a grassroots project down," David says. "Some of the projects you see in this book are operating on their own, just scraping by. They need someone with the resources to step in and say, we know how to get this permanent, how to get the land officially designated for this use."
The spaces urban farmers find to work the land are small, even tiny—rarely more than a city back. But their impact can rival that of even the biggest parks. In the simple act of planting a seed, David sees a moment of connection in a system that for many Americans is abstract.
"Nobody's arguing that [urban farms] are going to feed the masses. The point is, all kinds of people can come to these places and see where food comes from," David says. "It doesn't come from the grocery store, it doesn't come from a truck—it comes from the ground."
Breaking Through Concrete is available now from UC Press.
Learn how The Trust for Public Land is supporting urban farms across the country.