We started out at the Rosewood Initiative, a non-profit established in 2013, whose main mission is to provide a space for the community to gather. Jenny Glass and Tony Lamb explained us that the impetus for the Rosewood Initiative came from the lack of any gathering spaces in the neighborhood, whether they be parks or community centers. One of the organization’s most positive aspects, is perhaps its loose structure and openness to the wishes of the community. In this space, people are welcome to host activities ranging from fashion shows, to guitar lessons, business development classes, and birthday parties. As Tony Lamb explains, there is no top-down structure or rules in place, but rather an effort to “meet the community where they’re at.” In this sense, this loose structure allows for relationships to grow in a more organic fashion. When it comes to integrating urban agriculture or healthy foods within immigrant or low-income communities, we need to remember that these discourses often come from a white middle-class population. If there is no desire from the community for these programs, it is important to listen to that instead of pushing an agenda.
We then walked a few blocks south on 162nd ave to Outgrowing Hunger, an organization that does community development through urban agriculture. We spent the first 10 minutes walking around the 80,000 square feet of cultivated land. In this space, Burmese and Bhutanese families - amongst others - are able to farm a plot of land and grow culturally appropriate crops. Similarly to the Rosewood Initiative, Adam (founder of Outgrowing Hunger) explained to us that there is a clear intention for this initiative to be bottom-up. This is an interesting difference with the community garden program, where strict rules are enforced in terms of what can be grown and garden maintenance. As mentioned above, this looser structure allows for relationships to develop, and a big part of the ability to develop trust.
Ultimately, these discussions gave us a better idea of the role of UA in community development, especially in diverse and more marginalized communities. Here, UA is not presented as a service to the population, but rather is something for the community to shape according to their own values and needs.