Urban agriculture projects often locate in low-income neighborhoods where vacant lots and other spaces are relatively accessible to budding urban farmers, community gardeners, and food justice activists. Locating in these neighborhoods also helps enable the inclusion of marginalized communities – an objective that is often central to the mission of urban agriculture practitioners. Common goals include providing urban greenspace and community gathering space, offering gardening and nutrition education, and expanding fresh food options in the neighborhood. Yet, in providing these amenities, urban agriculture projects sometimes contribute to gentrification and therefore play a role in displacing the very communities they intend to serve. In this paper we explore these tensions in Portland, Oregon and Montreal, Quebec, two cities renowned for their vibrant urban agriculture scenes and innovations in urban sustainability planning. Based on intensive fieldwork in August 2015, our research includes over two-dozen semi-structured interviews with government officials, city planners, and urban agriculture practitioners, as well as site visits to collective and community gardens, commercial and non-profit farms, rooftop beehives, school gardens, community orchards, ecoquartiers and ecodistricts. We position urban agriculture practice as a spatial and cultural urban frontier implicated in the investment and disinvestment cycles of uneven development . We compare how the tensions between urban agriculture and gentrification manifest in these two North American cities, and we raise questions about what types of policy and planning—both within and beyond the realm of urban agriculture—might best serve existing communities in place and resist tendencies towards displacement and gentrification.
Diana, Amy, Dillon