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Dissertation: ‘Neighbourhood to Agrihood: Exploring the extent to which urban agriculture can support inclusive redevelopment in Detroit’

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Recent graduate Hannah Gillie (Geography 2014) awarded first place in RGS-IBG Food Geographies Undergraduate Dissertation Prize.

By Hannah Gillie
Fitzwilliam College
Sept 28, 2017

Excerpt:

Abstract of Hannah’s study:

Detroit may be America’s hub of urban agriculture (UA), but what does this mean for redevelopment in the city? Amid spiralling urban crises, bankruptcy and decay, farms and gardens have spread across Detroit and continue to be key features of the cityscape, whilst investment and development return to select areas of the city. Despite much research on the socio-cultural, environmental, health and food security elements of UA, less is known about the economic development potentials and limitations of urban food cultivation. Even less studied are urban agrihoods. These are new mixed-use developments centred on farming, and Detroit is home to the supposed first ‘sustainable urban agrihood’ in America. As the story in Detroit follows a recent narrative of urban recovery, gentrification is beginning to surface as an issue. Given this context, this study examines the extent to which gentrification is interacting with UA and the implications this has for UA centred redevelopment.

I focus on inclusivity as a key implication because forms of inclusion/exclusion embedded in UA and redevelopment processes need greater attention. My investigation mobilises a foodscape analytical lens to explore UA from farm-totable and the spaces, places, processes and struggles this involves. I achieve this through field research of farms, markets and food businesses across Detroit. It is evident that gentrification is implicating UA to a significant degree in a number of complex and interrelated ways, offering both opportunities and barriers for inclusion. The farm-to-table analysis illuminates social struggles and power imbalances which challenge the agrihood as an inclusive model of urban regeneration. In using a novel examination of UA and multidimensional and multiscale frameworks, this project presents a critical geography of UA.

Read the complete paper here.

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