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Ph.D. thesis – Urban Agriculture as Revolution: An Action Research and Social Movement Analysis of Food Production in Alameda County, California

Cattle at the edge of Pleasanton. Photo by Kristin Reynolds.

Urban Agriculture as Revolution

By Kristin Arfi Reynolds
Ph.D., Geography, University of California, Davis
(c) 2010


This dissertation examines characteristics of urban agriculture as a social movement using Alameda County in the San Francisco Bay Area as a study context. The overarching goals of this study were: a) to add to the theoretical understanding of urban agriculture in the Global North; b) to assess urban agriculture practitioners’ interest in receiving technical assistance from University of California Cooperative Extension, (UCCE); c) to assess the possibilities for, and take steps toward, expanding UCCE assistance for a diversity of urban agriculture practitioners.

The study was conducted using an action research framework. Distinct characteristics of action research are: its attention to process; its dedication to motivating social change through research; and its emphasis on the interplay between theory and social action.

Field research consisting of intensive interviews and site visits explored: social and geographic characteristics of 52 urban agriculture operations (farms, ranches, and gardens); challenges experienced by practitioners; and types of assistance that would better enable operations to realize their goals. This information was analyzed using descriptive statistics and various social theories. GIS maps were created with site location and U.S. Census data. This enabled further geographic and demographic analysis. An additional data set consisted of UCCE agricultural advisors’ perspectives on urban agriculture. This information was collected through participant observation from within the University of California Small Farm Program and Small Farm Workgroup, both of which are part of California’s extension system.

In concert with the practical focus of this work, this dissertation draws from several theoretical frameworks for its analysis of urban agriculture as a social movement. David Harvey’s (1973) work on revolutionary theory and Patricia Allen et al.’s (2003) study of California agrifood initiatives (AFIs) are central to this analysis. Discussion sections of this work center on a set of four themes derived from the field research. These themes are: a) community gardening; b) community food security/food justice/youth development; c) sustainable living/self-provisioning; and d) commercial agriculture.

Key findings and recommendations are presented in two chapters of this dissertation. Chapter 9 presents action recommendations focused on steps that could be taken to motivate and increase Cooperative Extension support for urban agriculture. A summary of overall findings and suggested topics for future research is then presented in the concluding chapter.

See the complete 249 page dissertation here. (3.66MB)


1 Guru { 01.19.11 at 7:01 am }

Hi, Nice thesis

2 Sharone { 12.11.11 at 12:58 pm }

Very interesting! Thank-you for sharing!

3 Patrick Timmer { 12.11.11 at 2:55 pm }

also found very interesting. thanks sharone for the indication.

4 Muhammad Zaman Gopang { 12.26.11 at 9:26 am }

I liked your way of writing