ArticlePDF Available


As a sustainability initiative with the backing of civil society, business, or government interests, urban agriculture can drive green gentrification even when advocates of these initiatives have good intentions and are aware of their exclusionary potential for urban farmers and residents. I investigate this more general pattern with the case of how urban agriculture became used for green gentrification in Denver, Colorado. This is a city with many urban farmers that gained access to land after the Great Recession but faced the contradiction of being a force for displacement and at risk of displacement as the city adopted new sustainability and food system goals, the housing market recovered, and green gentrification spread. I argue that to understand this outcome, it is necessary to explain how political economy and cultural forces create neighborhood disinvestment and economic marginalization and compel the entrance of urban agriculture initiatives due to their low-profit mode of production and potential economic, environmental, and social benefits. Central to how urban agriculture initiatives contribute to green gentrification is the process of revalorization, which is how green growth machines repurpose such initiatives by drawing on their cultural cachet to exploit rent gaps. I conclude with a set of hypotheses to help other scholars test the conditions under which urban agriculture is more or less likely to contribute to green gentrification. Doing so may help nuance convictions about the benefits of urban agriculture within the context of entrenched inequalities in rapidly changing cities.
The Politics of Land
Urban Agriculture, Revalorization, and Green Gentrification in Denver, Colorado
Joshua Sbicca,
Article information:
To cite this document: Joshua Sbicca, "Urban Agriculture, Revalorization, and Green
Gentrification in Denver, Colorado" In The Politics of Land. Published online: 25 Feb
2019; 149-170.
Permanent link to this document:
Downloaded on: 08 March 2019, At: 07:49 (PT)
References: this document contains references to 0 other documents.
To copy this document:
The fulltext of this document has been downloaded 2 times since 2019*
Access to this document was granted through an Emerald subscription provided by
For Authors
If you would like to write for this, or any other Emerald publication, then please
use our Emerald for Authors service information about how to choose which
publication to write for and submission guidelines are available for all. Please visit for more information.
About Emerald
Emerald is a global publisher linking research and practice to the benefit of society.
The company manages a portfolio of more than 290 journals and over 2,350 books
and book series volumes, as well as providing an extensive range of online products
and additional customer resources and services.
Emerald is both COUNTER 4 and TRANSFER compliant. The organization is a partner
of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and also works with Portico and the
LOCKSS initiative for digital archive preservation.
*Related content and download information correct at time of download.
Downloaded by Colorado State University, Joshua Sbicca At 07:49 08 March 2019 (PT)
Joshua Sbicca
As a sustainability initiative with the backing of civil society, business, or
government interests, urban agriculture can drive green gentrication even
when advocates of these initiatives have good intentions and are aware of
their exclusionary potential for urban farmers and residents. I investigate this
more general pattern with the case of how urban agriculture became used for
green gentrication in Denver, Colorado. This is a city with many urban
farmers that gained access to land after the Great Recession but faced the
contradiction of being a force for displacement and at risk of displacement as
the city adopted new sustainability and food system goals, the housing market
recovered, and green gentrication spread. I argue that to understand this
outcome, it is necessary to explain how political economy and cultural forces
create neighborhood disinvestment and economic marginalization and compel
the entrance of urban agriculture initiatives due to their low-prot mode of
production and potential economic, environmental, and social benets.
Central to how urban agriculture initiatives contribute to green gentrication
is the process of revalorization, which is how green growth machines repur-
pose such initiatives by drawing on their cultural cachet to exploit rent gaps.
I conclude with a set of hypotheses to help other scholars test the conditions
under which urban agriculture is more or less likely to contribute to green
gentrication. Doing so may help nuance convictions about the benets of
The Politics of Land
Research in Political Sociology, Volume 26, 149170
Copyright r2019 by Emerald Publishing Limited
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved
ISSN: 0895-9935/doi:10.1108/S0895-993520190000026011
Downloaded by Colorado State University, Joshua Sbicca At 07:49 08 March 2019 (PT)
urban agriculture within the context of entrenched inequalities in rapidly
changing cities.
Keywords: Green gentrication; urban agriculture; local food; valorization;
environmental sociology; sociology of food
In 2011, a major political opportunity opened to expand urban agriculture in
Denver. Michael Hancock was elected as the Mayor. During his campaign, he
committed to promote economic and community development and address gaps
in food access with urban agriculture. In response to the ongoing fallout from
the Great Recession, his mayoral bid rested on what he called the Peoples
Plan.The goal of the plan was to jumpstart the economy. In line with trends
throughout the United States, one mechanism was to develop a more robust
local food system.
This plan was met with accolades by Denvers food movement. After all,
Denver is the only municipality on the Front Range that does not have dedi-
cated open-space funding. The city lacks a working land trust, so there is very
little preserved farmland. There was hope that after decades of farm loss, the
trend would start to reverse; 307 farms operated in the city in 1925, which
dropped to nine by 2016. Under this new scenario, Denver farmers would have
access to more land, local food availability would increase for everyone, and
food dollars would circulate more within the community. Mayoral candidate
Hancock proposed to create an urban farm network to grow a homegrown
fresh-food economy in the city.This would get established by transforming
former Mayor John Hickenloopers Greenprint Denver, a ve-year, citywide
plan to reduce global warming emissions by 20 percent while creating 1,000
green jobs, into a permanent Ofce of Sustainability. Together with the Ofce of
Economic Development, the hope was to meet what became known as the 2020
Sustainability Goals. As part of this plan, the cityslocal foodgoal committed
to having more of the food it consumes grown or processed in Colorado
(Angelo & Goldstein, 2016).
What was less understood at the time of Michael Hancocks campaign was
that a booming economic recovery was around the corner. With it came a wave
of gentrication, resulting in both the displacement of longtime residents and
urban farms. As a result, many activists in Denvers food movement have grown
frustrated with the citywide challenges of urban agriculture amid an unequal
housing recovery after the Great Recession. Development interests have repeat-
edly used urban agriculture to advance exclusionary gentrication, while local
government has done little to promote affordable housing or urban agriculture
as a legitimate long-term land use. Instead, economic and political elites deploy
local foodto capture the cultural value of the food movement and leverage
urban agriculture initiatives to valorize neighborhoods targeted for economic
development after the Great Recession. Urban agriculture was supposed to x
problems, not become a tool to x capital and advance gentrication.
The green gentrication literature broadly agrees that the growth imperative
of capitalist urbanization compels local governments to greenwash development
Downloaded by Colorado State University, Joshua Sbicca At 07:49 08 March 2019 (PT)
through sustainability initiatives in disinvested neighborhoods, which attracts
new wealth and residents and displaces working-class communities and commu-
nities of color (Checker, 2011;Curran & Hamilton, 2012;Gould & Lewis, 2017;
Safransky, 2014;Wolch, Byrne, & Newell, 2014). But like much of the gentri-
cation scholarship, the idea of green gentrication needs continual theoretical
renement to generate fuller explanations (Lees, Slater, & Wyly, 2008).
dynamic endeavor requires specifying the relationship between culture and polit-
ical economy, especially as it relates to the distinctions between different land
uses and congurations of power (Zukin, 1987;Zukin, 1991).
As a sustainability initiative with the backing of civil society, business, or
government interests, urban agriculture can drive green gentrication even when
advocates of these initiatives have the best of intentions and are aware of their
exclusionary potential for urban farmers and residents. I argue that to under-
stand this outcome, it is necessary to explain the relationship between how
neighborhoods experience disinvestment and economic marginalization and the
entrance of urban agriculture initiatives due to their low-prot mode of produc-
tion and potential economic, environmental, and social benets. Central to how
urban agriculture initiatives contribute to green gentrication is the process of
revalorization, which is how green growth machines repurpose such initiatives
by drawing on their cultural cachet to exploit rent gaps.
To better understand the exclusionary outcomes associated with different
forms of green gentrication, it is necessary to pay closer attention to the process
of revalorization. This is multifaceted, so I focus on the relationship between
structural economic conditions, city, and neighborhood-level political and social
dynamics, urban agriculture initiatives, and how people interpret them on a
microlevel. In the context of policy-led and developer-attuned green gentri-
cation pressures, urban agriculture initiatives may both contribute to
neighborhood-level demographic shifts and in the process compromise their very
ability to stay in place.
In the following sections, I further theorize these connections by synthesizing
the literatures on growth machines, urban agriculture, and green gentrication.
Then, I provide an analysis of this Denver case study and the historical context
of the Great Recession to explain the process of revalorization, and the contra-
dictory position of urban farmers being a force for displacement and at risk of
displacement as the city adopted new sustainability and food system goals, the
housing market recovered, and green gentrication spread. I conclude with a
discussion of the key theoretical takeaways and suggest several conditions under
which urban agriculture is more and less likely to lead to green gentrication.
Under the growth machine logic, political and economic elites (e.g., planners,
politicians, real estate brokers, and developers) work together to commodify
land to increase economic growth within cities (Molotch, 1976). Simply put,
when there is a large gap between the prevailing and potential market rate for
151Urban Agriculture, Revalorization, and Green Gentrication
Downloaded by Colorado State University, Joshua Sbicca At 07:49 08 March 2019 (PT)
real estate, growth machines devise capital investment strategies to generate
prot. One of the driving cultural dimensions of this process is that post-
industrial cities led by artistic-minded professionals in service- and knowledge-
based economies can be attractive to move to if there are amenities or initiatives
that reect middle-class tastes. The green growth machine recognizes that sus-
tainability initiatives like community gardens that greenspace or grocery
stores that greendiets can signal that a neighborhood is ready to move into
(Anguelovski, 2016;Martinez, 2010). While middle-class people do not hold a
monopoly on these tastes, they have the collective economic power to shape
retail and housing markets to their liking. As these green tastes manifest in sus-
tainability initiatives, they can both cause and enhance gentrication (Gould &
Lewis, 2017).
The displacement pressure created by green growth machines creates signi-
cant hurdles for urban farmers and gardeners to bring enough land under pro-
duction to feed even a fraction of large metropolitan areas (Grewal & Grewal,
2012;Martellozzo et al., 2014;McClintock, Cooper, & Khandeshi, 2013). Given
the spread of urban development, the gradual removal of food production from
cities, and the rezoning of cities for other purposes, the rural-to-urban popula-
tion shift, and the persistent economic challenges associated with farming, the
long-term viability of urban agriculture as a food localization strategy remains
in question. For instance, as people continue to repopulate urban centers
once abandoned for the suburbs, development pressures drive up property
values. The high cost of land makes it hard to afford to grow fruits and
vegetables (Oberholtzer, Dimitri, & Pressman, 2014). Even if someone attains
land at an affordable price, there is the issue of land tenure (Ghose and
Pettygrove, 2014; Thibert, 2012). Knowing that property values may increase or
that some development opportunity may yield greater prots from the land,
many property owners will lease the land, usually without an option to buy.
The need to maximize land rents and prot complicates urban farming. First,
low-resourced urban farmers usually grow on marginal sites like rooftops, park-
ways, and former industrial plots. Additionally, for non-prot initiatives, they
often locate in working-class neighborhoods, donate much of their produce, and
rarely own land (Dimitri et al., 2016). Nevertheless, there is pressure from
funders, governments, scholars, and food activists to achieve the unattainable
trifecta of urban agriculture:good food, workforce development and training,
and good jobs (Daftary-Steel, Herrera, & Porter, 2015). Second, there is racial
and class stratication in land tenure, with working-class urban farmers of color
most likely to experience insecure arrangements (Reynolds & Cohen, 2016).
Similarly, the renter class of urban farmers and gardeners is more subject to
eviction, often under the guise that the land is not being put to its most produc-
tive use, that is, its capacity to maximize prot(Schmelzkopf, 1995). Third, the
social and ecological benets of urban agriculture can attract capital and
become an amenity for green gentrication (McClintock, 2018). There are
unintended consequences of greening efforts and revitalization through alter-
native food initiatives such as farmersmarkets, local food restaurants, and
community gardens (Anguelovski, 2016;Cadji & Alkon, 2015;Checker, 2011;
Downloaded by Colorado State University, Joshua Sbicca At 07:49 08 March 2019 (PT)
Curran & Hamilton, 2012;Voicu & Been, 2008). For example, in a survey of
the literature on community gardens, Guitart et al. (2012) found a positive cor-
relation between these neighborhood amenities and increased property values.
Urban agriculture is therefore in a precarious place. Advocates and scholars
often claim it can solve social problems, but it may be a victim of its own success
and undermine the communities it was supposed to benet.
Under capitalism, lands use value is subservient to exchange value (Wood,
2002). The prot motive encourages expropriating the usefulness of land (e.g.,
the ability to grow food) to make money (e.g., turning the food into a commod-
ity and/or building housing). Another way of talking about this process is valori-
zation. Because private property regimes bestow exclusive rights to parcels of
land, there is a structural incentive to nd ways to increase the perceived value
of property to turn a prot from its sale. Value producing activity could include
making improvements to a house (e.g., planting a garden), to a neighborhood
(e.g., providing amenities like farmers markets), or to a city (e.g., incentivizing
local food production), but the valorization of land in cities is not strictly an
economic process; it entails the cooperation between businesses, developers, and
real estate brokers and local government (Molotch, 1976).
Urban agriculture exists within a neoliberal governance context where cities
respond to ecological pressures and strive to maintain economic growth by com-
peting for residents with sustainability initiatives that can spur capital invest-
ment (While, Jonas and Gibbs, 2004; Walker, 2016). This means that achieving
green outcomes, like increasing the acreage of a citys land under agricultural
production to increase local food consumption, co-occurs with entrepreneurial
activity. Even when urban agriculture initiatives prioritize the cultural or eco-
logical value of their work, it can be difcult to avoid reproducing neoliberal
processes and logics at a local level (Pudup, 2008). Food and farming t well
into this scenario (Safransky, 2017). In cities such as Cleveland, Detroit, Los
Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Oakland, Portland, San Francisco, and
Seattle (to name some well-studied examples), urban agriculture contends with
the contradiction between the use values it provides to residents (e.g., commu-
nity space) and its inability to offer much in the way of exchange values compet-
itive with other land uses (Alkon, Kato, & Sbicca, 2018). The highest and best
useis rarely growing food.
As McClintock (2018) contends, urban agriculture can become part of the
process of green gentrication: urban growth machines draw on its symbolic
sustainability capitalto revalorize disinvested parts of cities for redevelopment,
which obscures the raced and classed processes that displaced people from a
neighborhood and that drew people back in. One of McClintocks main argu-
ments is that the revalorization of urban agriculture is socially and spatially
uneven. Yet, one of the unexplored explanations for this unevenness is that spe-
cic historical moments can condition revalorization.
153Urban Agriculture, Revalorization, and Green Gentrication
Downloaded by Colorado State University, Joshua Sbicca At 07:49 08 March 2019 (PT)
Gould and Lewis (2017) argue for the signicance of greening events.They
suggest that the speculative development of a green amenity or sustainability ini-
tiative by outsiders can be the trigger for green gentrication in a neighborhood
or city. It is critical to nuance this causal explanation by accounting for how
these localized greening events interact with structural conditions. Key to my
arguments in this article is the fact that gentrication relies on the boom and
bust cycle of housing markets (Smith, 1996). One of the national responses to
the Great Recession by city leaders throughout the United States was to encour-
age the production and consumption of local food in the name of creating resil-
iency to economic shocks. Federal and foundation money owed to non-prots
and businesses to reduce food insecurity, create jobs, and green abandoned
property. Urban farmers found themselves in a precarious position because it
became easier to start new urban agriculture initiatives, but these often took
place in economically disinvested neighborhoods.
Revalorization is therefore a multifaceted process. The foreclosure crisis
increased the overall ratio of vacant property. In turn, property became deva-
lued. To prevent the total collapse of prices due to vacancies and neighborhood
ight, developers offered their land to urban farmers to prevent blight,which
revaluedthe property once the recession subsided and the housing demand
increased. At the same time, urban agriculture proliferated in disinvested neigh-
borhoods because the economic margins of farming are slim, which compelled
urban farmers to nd ways to reduce typical barriers to entry. However, once
the economy recovered, developers and investors searched for the next up-and-
comingneighborhoods. They looked to those places with the highest post-
recession social and ecological investment, which is where there are the largest
exploitable rent gaps. This new round of development was helped in part by the
cultural appeal of urban agriculture initiatives and their uniquely precarious
land tenure arrangements. Contradictorily, because urban agriculture faces
prot barriers, especially in Denver where the growing season is ve months,
urban agriculture is forced to constantly chase underutilizedland, which it
holds until displaced by a more protable land use. Without long-term leases,
regulatory changes to zoning and land use laws, or access to more public land,
urban agriculture will remain entangled in the gentrication process.
In the summer of 2015, I started investigating Denvers food movement. I was
curious how activists navigate improving the local food system in the context of
competing interests and urbanization processes. I became especially interested at
the outset of this research in Mayor Hancocks commitment to local food pro-
duction and the relationship between gentrication and urban agriculture
because many urban farmers started experiencing displacement. At the same
time, the work of the main representative body of the food movement, the
Denver Sustainable Food Policy Council (DSFPC), included several urban agri-
culture initiatives that aligned with the 2020 Sustainability Goals around local
Downloaded by Colorado State University, Joshua Sbicca At 07:49 08 March 2019 (PT)
food. Combined, these were indications of a distinct set of conditions connecting
food, urban agriculture, and green gentrication in Denver.
Over two years, with the help of three research assistants, we interviewed 67
people who are part of the food movement. They represent one or more of a
purposive sample of 111 public or private organizations, businesses, or govern-
ment entities aiming to improve Denvers food system. My sample is representa-
tive and includes urban farmers, gardeners, chefs, owners of farm to
table restaurants, caterers, vegan activists, food justice organizers, dietary health
advocates, anti-hunger representatives, extension ofcers, and others. Almost all
the interviewees are in leadership positions in their organizations and are paid
for their work. About 52 percent of my sample identify as female, and the rest
identify as male (48 percent). An overwhelming majority of the participants are
white (>85 percent), while the rest are roughly split between Asian, black, and
Latinx. The education level of participants is high, with over 80 percent having
attained at least a bachelors degree. Last, reecting the mixed political views in
Denver, 56 percent identify as liberal, 33 percent as moderate or independent,
and 11 percent as conservative or other. For the purposes of this article, I focus
on interviews with 25 people, a subsample whose work includes non- and for-
prot food production or food system planning on issues of local food and land
use policy.
The most pertinent questions from the semi-structured interview guide asked
people about their work, how they became involved, how the local economic
and political environment inuence their work, institutional pressures, and their
experiences with land acquisition and land use. Using the qualitative data anal-
ysis software, NVivo 11, I ran queries looking for discussion of development,
land, gentrication, and urban agriculture to nd relevant interviews to code.
First, I discovered that interviewees held common grievances. The local food
commitment of the 2020 Sustainability Goals was initially ill-dened and
ultimately did not explicitly entail supporting Denver farmers; government
agencies and the Denver Housing Authority were unreliable partners; and
gentrication increased the lack of affordable land, land insecurity, and the
economic precariousness of urban agriculture. Second, and relatedly, post-
Great Recession development patterns structured how activists proposed or
engaged in land acquisition strategies. Last, there were conicted views on how
urban agriculture initiatives play into revalorizing neighborhoods. Interviewees
interpreted urban agriculture as a precarious practice due to gentrication or
that it can contribute to gentrication. The evidence suggests that both are tak-
ing place.
To understand how urban agriculture becomes a tool for green gentrication,
I triangulated intervieweesperspectives with reports, meeting minutes, listserv
emails, and policy proposals produced by Denver city agencies, DSFPC, and
Denver Housing Authority. These documents outline government and stake-
holder data, priorities, and framing of several pertinent issues: food system plan-
ning, economic development, poverty, housing, and gentrication. I also rely on
local reporting on these issues in both the mainstream and alternative press to
trace the similarities and differences in how local food and urban agriculture are
155Urban Agriculture, Revalorization, and Green Gentrication
Downloaded by Colorado State University, Joshua Sbicca At 07:49 08 March 2019 (PT)
understood with respect to economic development and housing. To properly
contextualize this research, I turn now to relevant planning and housing history
in Denver.
The Denver region went from an agriculturally rich area before World War II,
replete with farms, orchards, ranches, and food-processing facilities, to a boom-
ing postwar metropolitan magnet. Over a 20-year period, the population grew
by close to 150 percent, largely due to strong manufacturing and service sectors,
hundreds of federal agencies and military installations, and protable extraction
of energy resources. It also became a tourist gateway to the Rocky Mountains.
These growth factors squeezed out agriculture to accommodate more residents.
To house the 600,000 new residents that ooded into the metropolitan area
between 1940 and 1965, the city and county of Denver, under pressure from
powerful developers, used their legal authority to create new residential subdivi-
sions in both open spaces and agricultural spaces (Bunyak, Simmons, &
Simmons, 2011). It is unsurprising that after 1965, the role of agriculture rapidly
declined. While there were 11,211 acres of land in 81 farms in 1959, this dropped
to 419 acres in 58 farms in 1964.
Like many cities during this era, the economic development was uneven.
Under separate but equalstatutes, people of color faced discrimination in
employment, education, places of business, public space, and housing. As
Denver started annexing land at its periphery to accommodate a growing white
population with suburban developments, black and Latinx communities were
subject to redlining and racial covenants that conned them to the most mar-
ginal neighborhoods in North Denver. According to maps developed by the
HomeownersLoan Corporation (HOLC) to determine credit worthiness and
risk in major American cities, the Denver neighborhoods with the highest con-
centration of blacks and Latinx were deemed either hazardousor denitely
declining(Jackson, 1980). Until Colorado passed the Fair Housing Practices
Act in 1959, banks were legally allowed to refuse to lend to people of color if
they deemed that their redlined neighborhood was blightedand therefore a
lending risk.Denver Post journalist George Brown (1954) remarked that
racial bigotry is embedded deep in the Denver housing situationand showed
more prejudice than any other phase of the citys activity.Moreover, for those
people of color who sought to move into white neighborhoods, restrictive
clauses were written into deeds that prevented them from owning the home due
to their race. Even after the passage of the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968,
de facto segregation remained in Denver for decades, with many reported inci-
dents of white homeowners refusing to sell to black and Latinx families (Bunyak
et al., 2011).
Between 1970 and 1980, wealthier white neighborhoods became more
homogenous, while income segregation ossied. This was a decade of uneven
economic opportunity. Residents experienced moderate levels of neighborhood
Downloaded by Colorado State University, Joshua Sbicca At 07:49 08 March 2019 (PT)
mobility around the central business district (CBD) as low-wage earners had
fewer local opportunities compared to middle- and high-wage earners. Both dis-
placement and gentrication were outcomes of this process (Clark, 1985). The
neighborhoods most likely to gentrify had high concentrations of people of color
and high unemployment rates, entrenched poverty and many low-income fami-
lies, and underrepresentation in higher paying occupations in the neighboring
CBD. As downtown Denver became a more attractive place to live for high
earners, working-class neighborhoods increasingly became sites for speculation
and revitalization(Clark, 1985). Without any public policy intervening to
slow this process and latent political support for wealthy residents and develop-
ment interests, the city was waiting for someone to articulate justications for
exclusionary gentrication.
Denvers former Planning Director, Jennifer Moulton, was perhaps the most
inuential gure responsible for the redevelopment of Lower Downtown
(LoDo), a nodal neighborhood around which gentrication has spread.
Moulton was the rst chair of Historic Denvers preservation committee and
was the key lobbyist for designating LoDo a historic district in 1988. Then, in
the midst of her 12-year run as Denvers Planning Director from 1992 to 2004,
she wrote Ten Steps to a Living Downtown, a statement whose main logics con-
tinue to resonate in local planning and housing circles (Maher, 2005). Its histori-
cal narrative of urban disinvestment focuses on road and automobile expansion,
suburban opportunity, and middle-class ight. There is no racial or class con-
ict, no discrimination, and no politics in this framing of how downtown
Denver lost its population and why large concentrations of blacks and Latinx
remained until gentrication began in the 1970s. With this story in place,
Moulton (1999) contends that to resolve the rent gap requires market-based
solutions: Public policy cannot by itself create demand for housing anywhere,
especially downtown. However, in conjunction with private business initiatives,
local government can help accelerate potential into action by educating, pro-
viding incentives and removing regulatory obstacles.This requires typical
growth machine strategies brand a distinct image, bring in middle- and
upper-middle-class amenities, criminalize the poor, keep the funkyfeel of
historic buildings, eliminate burdensome regulations, and create nancial
incentives for development. As Denver has entered further into the 2000s,
gentrication has evolved from one of the other strategies that Moulton
mentions, increasing green space, to include other sustainability initiatives.
Environmentally focused branding, an array of sustainable amenities, and
government support for green business development feature prominently.
Developing Denver required pushing out agriculture and carving up the city
along race and class lines. Now, edible landscaping, farms, and personal and
community gardens are again widespread, albeit under conditions where devel-
opers leverage the popularity and precarity of urban agriculture to revalorize
157Urban Agriculture, Revalorization, and Green Gentrication
Downloaded by Colorado State University, Joshua Sbicca At 07:49 08 March 2019 (PT)
Organized garden projects have been taking place in Denver since at least 1985
when Denver Urban Gardens (DUG) was founded. Their mission is to foster
community by providing support to neighborhoods wanting a community gar-
den, particularly in low-income neighborhoods. DUG started with three gardens
and as of 2018 operate over 170 community gardens in the Denver metro area,
most of which are in Denver. Although the popularity of urban agriculture ebbs
and ows (Lawson, 2005), the current uptick appears connected to the surge in
interest in local food (Johnson, 2016). This was evident in Denver when Mayor
Hickenlooper took the unprecedented step in 2009 to declare May 14, Grow
Local Colorado Day. Due to community organizing by well-established non-
prots like DUG and grassroots upstarts like Grow Local Colorado and
Transition Denver, disparate urban agriculture initiatives began to cohere
around the opportunity to expand their work in response to the Great
Recession. Consider that DUG more than doubled the number of their commu-
nity gardens in the 10 years since 2008.
With recovery from the Great Recession still years away and a national polit-
ical climate open to urban agriculture, Denver signaled their support for
expanding local food production.
Local media coverage spiked as residents
sought ways to absorb the economic shock and reimagine urban landscapes with
Notably, the city backed an edible public demonstration garden at Civic
Center Park, the political heart of Colorado as well as Denver. Then, in 2010,
Mayor Hickenlooper formed the DSFPC, which immediately went to work on a
cottage foodsamendment to allow residents to sell food grown at home and a
new guideline permitting chickens and dwarf goats on residential lots. With the
election of Mayor Hancock in 2011, many new opportunities emerged to coordi-
nate across local food movement interests. Denvers 2020 Sustainability Goals
proposed to grow and process at least 20 percent of the citys food from the state
of Colorado, combat climate change, reduce obesity, reduce waste, and provide
workforce training to support Denver employers. Mayor Hancock also created
the position of Manager of Food System Development out of the Ofce of
Economic Development, making Denver one of the only cities in the United
States to have dedicated funding for such an ofcial government position.
However, without explicit policy or public planning statements tying local food
commitments to food production in Denver that availed far more land to urban
agriculture, many initiatives were at the disposal of developers and a rapidly
inating housing market.
While urban agriculture has been a common practice in Denver for decades,
the increased political support came at a time when city planners sought to
achieve the ideal triple bottom lineof environmental, economic, and social
sustainability. On its face, this appears like a windfall for local food and urban
agriculture activists. Unfortunately, intentions do not always translate into
outcomes. Like many North American cities, urban agriculture in Denver is
entangled in gentrication, which suggests that urban agriculture is not a
Downloaded by Colorado State University, Joshua Sbicca At 07:49 08 March 2019 (PT)
win-win-winpractice (Walker, 2016). The post-Great Recession challenge for
Denvers food movement, which held far more economic and social capital than
those facing the threat of displacement from their neighborhoods, became how
to advance some of its most cherished initiatives, like increasing local food pro-
duction and consumption, without them becoming sustainability goals that are
subordinate to development interests.
Recession, Devaluation, and the Production of Exclusion
The Great Recession led to a devaluation in property and an increase in eco-
nomic insecurity. This made it far easier for both for-prot and non-prot urban
farmers to ll vacant properties. In several instances, the unintended conse-
quence of taking over cheap land in gentrifying neighborhoods was that once
their land tenure expired, new housing development rendered those spaces more
exclusionary than before.
Between 2006 and 2010, 30,741 homes went into foreclosure (Ofce of the
Clerk & Recorder, 2017). For comparison, only 720 homes went into foreclosure
in 2016. The foreclosure crisis stripped many working-class communities and
communities of color, those most targeted by predatory lenders, of a major
asset, further entrenching their economic disadvantage (Rugh & Massey, 2010).
While proponents claimed that making it easier to own a home would lift more
families into the middle class, the Great Recession showed the illusiveness of
this dream. According to the Denver Post,The bottom one-third of homes in
value accounted for 51.7 percent of foreclosures in metro Denver(Svaldi,
2016). Like the rest of the country, across cities in the Mountain West, black
and Latinx homeowners experienced the highest foreclosure risks (Hall,
Crowder, & Spring, 2015).
The ripple effect of the devaluation in housing prices unevenly spread
throughout Denvers economy, setting the stage for a new wave of exclusionary
gentrication. Despite the macroeconomic recovery from high unemployment
and poverty rates, microeconomic conditions remain inequitable (United States
Census Bureau, a, n.d.). Black and Latinx Denverites fare worse than whites.
Estimates suggest that in 2015, 12 percent of blacks and 8 percent of Latinx
were unemployed, while 30 percent of blacks and 26 percent of Latinx lived in
poverty (United States Census Bureau, b, n.d., c, n.d.). Comparing 2000 to the
20102014 recovery period, 20 percent more poor blacks and 22 percent more
poor Latinx live in neighborhoods with poverty rates of 20 percent or higher. In
total, 64 percent of all poor blacks and 74 percent of all poor Latinx live in
neighborhoods with poverty rates of 20 percent or higher. Poor people of color
experience the added burden of being isolated in neighborhoods with highly con-
centrated poverty (Kneebone & Holmes, 2016). And yet, years after the ofcial
recovery from the Great Recession, the neighborhoods with the highest concen-
trations of low-income people and people of color are vulnerable to or are
experiencing gentrication (Denver Ofce of Economic Development, 2016).
Not only are housing prices increasing but also the class and ethnoracial mix
includes far more wealthy and white people (Community Facts, n.d.).
159Urban Agriculture, Revalorization, and Green Gentrication
Downloaded by Colorado State University, Joshua Sbicca At 07:49 08 March 2019 (PT)
Based on the Federal Housing Finance Agencys Home Price Index, home
values in the Denver metropolitan area increased by 67 percent since their peak
in 2006 before the foreclosure crisis (Gumbinger, 2017). In Denver alone, home
values that fell by 22 percent at their nadir are now worth 40 percent more than
during the frenzied zenith of the last housing bubble (Gudell, 2016). There is
also rapid population growth in Denver County. The county has added nearly
124,500 people since 2006. With all the pressure to house these people, develo-
pers and businesses are devising ways to attract the newcomers to different
neighborhoods. This raises a pertinent question. How does the cultural appeal
of local food and urban agriculture help revalorize disinvested neighborhoods to
attract an inux of middle-class people?
From Underutilized Landto Urban Agriculture to Condos
To attract new residents, cities must create economic, cultural, and esthetic
incentives (Schlichtman, Patch, & Hill, 2017.). As a mayoral candidate, Michael
Hancock laid out an economic development plan that would entice well-
educated people to move to Denver. According to his campaign materials, he
planned to re-boot the Denver Ofce of Economic Development and all of city
government to become an efcient, scally responsible and strong partner for
businesses.As Marketer-in-Chief,he promised to aggressivelymarket
Denver to recruit new businesses to elevate Denvers brand as a business-
friendly city with the highest quality of life(Luning, 2010). This is perhaps
unsurprising given that Mayor Hancock, along with many local politicians, has
come under the powerful inuence of development, business, and corporate
interests (Davies, 2015;Murray, 2016). Until a milquetoast affordable housing
plan, Mayor Hancock has avoided making many investments or commitments
to ensure that Denver is livable for all residents, regardless of income (Carter,
2016). When he has made token efforts, say in the plan to tweak a previously
failed inclusionary housing ordinance (IHO), this has come after multiple waves
of gentrication (Murray, 2014). Denver is unaffordable for many poor and
working-class people, and most affordable housing developments are integrated
into mixed-use developments with more market rate housing. The IHO only
requires that 10 percent of units match affordable housing statutes.
Gentrication in these neighborhoods is therefore highly likely.
Under this scenario, urban farmers became squeezed between being able to
access underutilized landafter the Great Recession, the popularity of and
political support for local food, their precarity once housing prices skyrocketed,
and that their work is not considered the highest and bestuse of land. As
Jean, a white native Denverite working on a grassroots urban agriculture initia-
tive growled,
I have been watching this for the last few years, and I now nally feel like my citys been
invaded. Im like who the fuck are all these people? Who are you people? You dont respect
shit. And thats me, the native in me. Like Im watching my land disappear has been the story
for such a long time, but its true. So many of the people that I work withartists, farmers,
Downloaded by Colorado State University, Joshua Sbicca At 07:49 08 March 2019 (PT)
activists, long-timersits like where the hell are we going to? People are getting kicked out.
Theyre just getting shoved out []its just a pay-to-play city, a pay-to-play region.
Jean is right that there is a quick, class-based shift in Denver, but while the indi-
vidual gentrier might be easy to blame, economic, cultural, and political forces
better help to explain green gentrication, especially the contradictory location
of urban agriculture in the process.
The experience of the Urban Farmers Collaborative illustrates what revalori-
zation looks like at this mesolevel. In 2010, a group of farmers one non-
prot, Green Leaf Denver, and two for-prots, Granata Farms and Produce
Denver were guaranteed three years to farm the three-acre Sustainability
Park. This was extended to 2015 after which they had to nd new locations.
While compared to developers these urban farmers hold less economic and polit-
ical power, their social and cultural capital as white and highly educated people
engaged in a popular practice allowed them to access land even if it was only for
a short time. But compared to the increased property value associated with
farming on this city block in the context of developer-led green gentrication,
they hold more economic and cultural power than some low-income residents
facing displacement pressures.
The farm sat on Denver Housing Authority (DHA) land, a historic site of
affordable housing going back to the 1930s. DHA is a quasi-municipal corpora-
tion that is subject to local housing laws and city and federal oversight. Its mis-
sion is to support affordable housing. However, rather than building affordable
housing on the property, it decided to land bank the property until the housing
market was strong. DHA could then sell it to a developer for more money.
While this speculative strategy may grow the resources necessary for DHA to
expand its affordable housing portfolio, it can also lead to gentrication in cer-
tain neighborhoods. According to a toolkit provided by the Housing and Urban
Developments Neighborhood Stabilization Program, land banks are meant to
prevent the contagious blight that can sweep across urban neighborhoods
like a plague, infecting house after house until whole blocks even
neighborhoods become empty and abandoned shadows of their former selves
(Kildee & Hovey, 2010, p. 2). Land banks set aside property and can be used to
create open green space or a community garden [] until a new purpose can
be determined(Kildee & Hovey, 2010, p. 2).
Sustainability Park was planned by DHA to revalorize this former site of
affordable housing (Denver Housing Authority, n.d.). As journalist Scott
McFetridge (2015) sanguinely commented: During the Great Recession, down-
town landowners and leaders offered up plots for free to get new vitality on
empty streets.But with all the people clamoring to live in downtown Denver,
new housing development is far more protable than farms. The land was sold
to Curtis Park Group, while the exclusive broker is TreeHouse Brokerage and
Development, which built S*Park, the condo and townhome project.
the opportunity to co-opt the work of the Urban Farmers Collaborative,
S*Parks website claims sustainability is the ethos for the projectand that the
development is celebrating the spirit of urban community and farmingwith a
161Urban Agriculture, Revalorization, and Green Gentrication
Downloaded by Colorado State University, Joshua Sbicca At 07:49 08 March 2019 (PT)
private park areaand modern greenhouse.Despite claims that the develop-
ment creates affordable housing (Rebchook, 2016), this project furthers exclu-
sionary gentrication. Out of the 41 units in the rst phase of development, only
ve were under US$350,000, and this is for the base model, studios between 500
and 600 square feet (S*Park, n.d.). Hoping to attract wealthier millennials and
young families to the neighborhood, S*Parks website advertises environmental
amenities such as parks, public transportation, and walkability, as well as prox-
imity to hip restaurants and breweries. Upon being placed on the market, these
initial units sold almost immediately..
The history of the Urban Farmers Collaborative farm sits uneasily with
another fact. It was in Curtis Park, which is part of the historically Latinx and
black low-income neighborhood of Five Points. Since 2000, the demographics
have ipped from majority people of color to majority white. In 2000, Latinx
were 42.8 percent of the population, blacks accounted for 26.2 percent, while
non-Latinx whites accounted for 27.4 percent. In 2015, non-Latinx whites grew
to 64.5 percent of the population, while Latinx shrunk to 20.9 percent, and
blacks to 10.4 percent (Community Facts, n.d.). Moreover, the ination-
adjusted average household income was US$49,175 in 2000 and almost doubled
in 2015 to US$81,029 (Community Facts, n.d.). The wealthier white people who
now live here can purchase cortados from places like ink! Coffee, which came
under re in 2017 from longtime residents for its sign, Happily gentrifying the
neighborhood since 2014.They can also go to Uchi, the sushi restaurant
started by James Beard Award-winning chef Tyson Cole, an Austin, Texas suc-
cess that branched out to Denver. It is located at S*Park. As Cole remarked,
We are always exploring new avenues to expand how we connect with food
and the community. Uchis proximity to the greenhouse space above the restau-
rant and the community garden at S*Park presents an amazing opportunity
(Zeppelin, 2017). Which community? The one that will spend over US$100 a
person for a ten-course omakase tasting?
There is an acute sense among urban farmers that wealthier residents attracted
to the amenity of urban agriculture might displace working-class residents.
Some of the staff at GrowHaus, a multi-racial and multi-ethnic food justice
non-prot that works with the Latinx community of Elyria-Swansea to increase
healthy food access, jobs, and urban agriculture skills, talked about the possibil-
ity of their presence as a gentrifying force. Indeed, they are an outsider-founded
organization that developed deep local ties and inclusive leadership and have
remained in the same location for eight years. This work is complicated by the
fact that they acquired their organizational cornerstone, a large greenhouse,
during the trough of the Green Recession through real estate connections, a
space that has been pivotal to their positive local reputation. Reecting on this
issue, Gary, a white staff member shared, [I]ts like uncovering this neighbor-
hood and are we in some way helping gentrication? Are we making it cool to
Downloaded by Colorado State University, Joshua Sbicca At 07:49 08 March 2019 (PT)
be here? One of the things that weve talked about is what is the sort of tipping
point in which the residents were trying to serve are being pushed out of this
neighborhood and are we a part of that problem?
Given these conditions, there is also the question of whether urban agricul-
ture can buck development pressures. In an interview the summer before they
closed after seven years of operation, Molly, a white representative of the com-
munity development non-prot Feed Denver, explained its culturally signifying
power related to local food trends: [W]e are lucky and take advantage of our
environment because we have a huge gentrication issue happening, meaning a
lot of money moving in, and people who really dont know these issues, but they
like the idea of eating local.Although they had always maintained collabora-
tive relationships with Sunnysides working-class and Latinx residents, their
urban agriculture initiative became an environmental amenity. Speaking further
to the specic role of their farm and market, she added, Whats happening now
is this not-valued piece of land that were on is now valued. We have a very nice
market and people will spend money at our market because we have people who
have a lot of money who have bought these houses that were going for
US$60,000 and now are going for US$600,000.
Urban agriculture can be a contradictory greening event; initiatives like those
at GrowHaus and Feed Denver offer community and economic benets for
those most at risk of displacement even as they serve to revalorize neighbor-
hoods. On the one hand, these initiatives leverage their cultural appeal to grow
food, increase food access, and create jobs for low-income people and increase
the visibility of cities that support local food. On the other hand, property ina-
tion makes it hard for urban farmers to nd land, especially for a long period of
time, which can push initiatives into neighborhoods facing or experiencing gen-
trication or pull them if there is an opportunity to acquire land from develo-
pers. There is thus an interaction between these conditions at a neighborhood
level that avails green growth machines to reimagine and repurpose urban
In response, Denvers food movement has sought to secure land to stabilize
urban food production and reduce the need to make compromises that entangle
urban farmers in green gentrication. While it has used its cultural and social
capital to resist being fully absorbed into the political economy of the housing
market, the cachet of local food and the valorization potential of urban agricul-
ture compels political elites to view them through the lens of economic develop-
ment. As I discuss further below, the experiences and perspectives of urban
agriculture advocates help articulate why this low-prot mode of production
will likely remain a precarious land use and a tool for green gentrication.
Local Food Boosters and the Precarity of Urban Agriculture
After a multi-year and multi-stakeholder outreach effort to learn what Denver
residents think the local food system should be like in 2030, Mayor Hancock
adopted the Denver Food Vision in 2017. This strategic policy tool contains
many goals that complement the 2020 Sustainability Goals, but more
163Urban Agriculture, Revalorization, and Green Gentrication
Downloaded by Colorado State University, Joshua Sbicca At 07:49 08 March 2019 (PT)
thoroughly articulates how to create an inclusive, healthy, economically vibrant,
regionally focused, and environmentally resilient food system (City of Denver,
2017). As part of its commitment to support local food production, it pledges to
preserve 99.2 acres of land for agricultural production. Even when compared to
the beginning of the end of agriculture in 1964 (419 acres), this modest goal rein-
forces the skepticism of many urban farmers that their work is precarious, espe-
cially given that this preserved land does not have to be in Denver.
As a point of comparison, a group of DSFPC members formed in 2015 to
work on an initiative to access more land for urban agriculture. Realizing that
accessing private land is expensive or relegates urban agriculture to marginal
places, they proposed converting 100 acres of public land to food production by
2020. Based on the estimates from Brett et al. (n.d.), which found that farming
on 766 acres would provide ve common vegetables for all residents for a year,
the policy proposal claimed that urban agriculture would greatly benet
Denver. They proposed that this land should be farmed in low-income commu-
nities with a guaranteed lease of three to ve years and revenue-neutral for
public agencies with the food producer bearing most infrastructure costs.
Although imperfect in that it could encourage further gentrication, privatize
costs for an economically marginal occupation, and guarantee land tenure for a
very short time, it was better than the land preservation goal of the Denver
Food Vision.
Many urban farmers believe that the major planning documents avoid
making policy changes that seriously increase the scale of land access and food
production within Denver. For example, in 2015, Colorado State University
(CSU) hosted a summit called Advancing the Agriculture Economy Through
Innovation,where both Governor Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Hancock
spoke of the signicance of urban food systems and the Northern Colorado
urban corridor as a zone of innovation. Agricultural reporter Luke Runyon
(2015) summarized the growth machine values driving the denition of urban
food system innovation by referencing a CSU-produced report that drove the
summit: The equation for the growth sounds something like: universities plus
entrepreneurs minus regulation multiplied by high quality of life equals innova-
Urban farmers view these elite gatherings and reports with suspicion.
The Governor is declaring that Colorado is a leader [] particularly in urban
farming, and I wanted to throw up,exclaimed Sherry, a white for-prot farmer
who was part of the Urban Farmers Collaborative. I thought, What are you
talking about? []When was the last time somebody said, Well give you a
subsidy if youre an urban farmer.So, for me the political context is mostly dis-
ingenuous. Theyre sound bites, they sound good, and theres very little reality.
Feelings that urban agriculture is precarious were shared broadly. As a white
university-afliated member of the DSFPC named John explained, Denver is
going through such a boom right now, which is kind of the history of Colorado.
There are booms and busts, dating back to silver []. What has really impacted
the [local] food system is there used to be vacant land that people could farm on
and now thats getting turned into condos.Quite simply, he argued, Were in
a land rush right now and if you dont have money, there is no crop that can
Downloaded by Colorado State University, Joshua Sbicca At 07:49 08 March 2019 (PT)
compete with condos.The reality of land insecurity directly translates into
urban farmers questioning the investments that they are willing to make. There
is a conict between investing time, labor, and resources such as plants and tools
and how this valorizes the property for future sale. Eli, a white representative of
a non-prot farm that works with a private school, lamented the inevitability of
being kicked off this landbecause they invested so much in this particular
soil []. We add compost every year for every season. Its local compost.He
expressed this view because land is expensive in Denver and when we get
kicked off of here, we are not going to nd two acres.Their insecurity is height-
ened because they are on a year-to-year lease. Moreover, the land costs two
million dollars. Eli admitted, I mean, look at those houses. The property value
is so high that it doesnt make sense for farmers to currently set up operation in
the city.Asked what they would do when kicked off the land, he said they
wanted to integrate themselves as much as possible with the school. Trying to
add value to our property holder is the strategy.The greeningof Denver
with local food and urban agriculture initiatives has not been as benecial or
free from contradiction as farmers would have liked. Economic valorization
often exploits social and cultural symbols that code practices and places as
green, trendy, or cool.
The precipitating event of the Great Recession and its subsequent aftermath
helps to explain how urban agriculture became entangled in the process of green
gentrication in Denver. The foreclosure crisis drove down real estate prices,
which opened up the opportunity for urban farmers to access more land and for
investors to strategically employ urban agriculture in the revalorization of neigh-
borhoods. At the same time, local government intervened with initiatives to
attract new capital and residents and to support those on the social and eco-
nomic margins. Among these initiatives were the 2020 Sustainability Goals and
the Denver Food Vision, both of which aim to achieve the triple bottom line of
economic, environmental, and social sustainability. For the local food move-
ment, these were institutional acknowledgments of its cultural value to the city.
Yet, for urban farmers, the inux of wealthy residents into low-income and
working-class neighborhoods increased housing pressures and accelerated exclu-
sionary gentrication. This undercut each sustainability goal in particular places
and ways. Economically and socially, local residents and urban farmers have
been displaced as wealthier newcomers reap the benets of their work. The irony
is that the popularity of the idea that urban agriculture will increase local food
access as a mechanism to advance sustainability can undercut the producers and
intended low-income consumers of this food, that while perhaps abundant in
cultural capital lack the economic capital of green growth machines.
The trends I have identied in this article are similar throughout the United
States (Alkon, Kato, & Sbicca, 2018). They therefore offer an opportunity to
consider several conditions under which urban agriculture is more or less likely
165Urban Agriculture, Revalorization, and Green Gentrication
Downloaded by Colorado State University, Joshua Sbicca At 07:49 08 March 2019 (PT)
to lead to green gentrication. I urge other scholars to test these hypotheses to
further explain the contradictory economic and cultural location of urban agri-
culture in rapidly changing cities.
First, green gentrication is more likely to benet from urban agriculture
when a large rent gap emerges after an economic recession. A devaluation in
property values can spur green growth machines to seek out initiatives that are
capable of revalorizing neighborhoods. Urban farmers operate on thin margins
so they are susceptible to lling into underutilized or abandoned plots of land.
There is thus a match made by necessity.
Second, cultural mechanisms like the popularity of local food work in tan-
dem with political economy mechanisms like the rent gap. Just like Zukin (1987)
found that culture and capital are mutually constitutive conditions that drive
gentrication, urban agriculture is more likely to support green gentrication
when developers exploit its cultural appeal to produce a prot. Thus, the process
of revalorization requires the cultural and social capital afforded to well-
positioned urban farming initiatives to convince visitors and newcomers to a dis-
invested neighborhood that it is an attractiveor up-and-comingplace.
Third, local government can play an essential role in facilitating how urban
agriculture contributes to green gentrication. If public planning documents
only support local food production on paper without clear mechanisms to create
long-term stable access to land for urban farmers, then developers and real
estate brokers can co-opt projects that are meant to serve residents at risk of dis-
placement. In contrast, if local government passes policies that explicitly work
to halt or slow exclusionary gentrication, like requiring developments to meet
community food needs in their project design or protecting urban agriculture
from development, then green gentrication is less likely (Cohen, 2018).
Fourth, the more neoliberal a governance network, the more likely that local
food movements will be unable to resist the greenwashing of urban agriculture
by development interests (Alkon, 2018). Non-prots ll in the gaps produced by
the roll-back of social welfare support and political aversion to mandating living
wages and fair housing policies, which aligns with many of the reasons why local
government supports social service oriented urban agriculture. Conversely, for-
prot urban farms often contend in a context of land scarcity where developers
can prot more from building houses than from producing food. In brief, with-
out explicit policies by local government to intervene in housing markets and
land use decisions that work to embed the economy in equitable social relations,
then urban agriculture initiatives will more likely support green gentrication.
Fifth, setting aside a small amount of public land is a release valve for deal-
ing with the land insecurity of urban farmers and will not reduce the threat of
urban agriculture becoming a tool for green gentrication. Instead of checking
the power of developers and boom/bust investment and housing cycles, this
token support may instead dull deeper political action and divide urban farming
initiatives further along race and class lines (Reynolds & Cohen, 2016). It also
would not eliminate the underlying dilemma that urban agriculture faces in a
capitalist context, namely its cultural and economic value to green growth
Downloaded by Colorado State University, Joshua Sbicca At 07:49 08 March 2019 (PT)
Together, these hypotheses point to the signicance of determining whether
political economy, culture, or both explain the use of urban agriculture in the
process of revalorizing certain neighborhoods to produce exclusionary gentri-
cation. They also suggest that this process is open, so different contexts might
show how the degree and kind of relationship between urban agriculture and
green gentrication is more important than discovering a universal explanation.
By examining the nuanced relationships between neighborhood investment and
resident opportunities, cultural and social dispositions, and urban housing and
planning policy, we can push beyond seeing green gentrication as goodor
badand perhaps discover strategies that are just green enough(Curran &
Hamilton, 2012;Schlichtman et al. 2017).
In cities facing entrenched environmental and social inequalities, residents
are looking for ways to ameliorate their worst effects with practices like urban
agriculture that might also generate social and economic development. At the
same time, green growth machines have found ways to use such practices to
attract new residents and new capital. While sustainability initiatives are becom-
ing more common, there is still the question of who benets from green gentri-
cation and whether it will inevitably produce exclusionary outcomes. Urban
agriculture can feed people and take care of farmers, or it can be fed to develo-
pers to generate prot. It remains to be seen how cities navigate this tension in
the years to come.
1. See, for instance, special issues on gentrication in Urban Studies in 2008 and City
and Community in 2016.
2. Michelle Obama led the way on getting the White House Vegetable Garden planted
in 2009. Also, social reformers have long used urban agriculture to respond to crisis, such
as war, economic recession, and deteriorating public health (Lawson, 2005).
3. Between 1990 and 2008, there were 109 articles in the Denver Post mentioning
urban agriculture,”“urban farm,or community garden.This more than doubled to
240 between 2009 and 2017.
4. Curtis Park Group was founded in 2015. Jonathan Alpert and Clem Reinhardt
founded Tree House together in 2012. The Curtis Park Group includes Jonathan Alpert.
5. The report by Graff, Berklund, and Rennels (2014) is titled The Emergence of an
Innovation Cluster in the Agricultural Value Chain along Colorados Front Range.
I want to extend my gratitude to all the people working in Denver to improve the local
food system amid complex pressures, of which gentrication is quite pressing. Thank you
for sharing your experiences and perspectives. I also want to express my appreciation for
the thoughtful comments and suggestions of the two anonymous reviewers. You helped
me discern a few key ways to strengthen this article. Obviously, any mistakes or over-
sights are my own.
Alkon, A. H. (2018). Entrepreneurship as activism? Resisting gentrication in Oakland, California.
Revista de Administração de Empresas,58(3), 279290.
167Urban Agriculture, Revalorization, and Green Gentrication
Downloaded by Colorado State University, Joshua Sbicca At 07:49 08 March 2019 (PT)
Alkon, A., Kato, Y., & Sbicca, J. (Eds.). (2018). Back to the city: Food and gentrication in North
America. Edited volume submitted for publication.
Angelo, B., & Goldstein, B. (2016). Denvers food system 2016: A baseline report.Ofce of Economic
Development. Denver, CO.
Anguelovski, I. (2016). Healthy food stores, greenlining and food gentrication: Contesting new
forms of privilege, displacement and locally unwanted land uses in racially mixed neighbor-
hoods. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research,39(6), 12091230.
Brett, J., Main, D. Cook, J., Coventry, Z., DePierre, A., Fiene, E., Fisher, S., Guenther, D., Oviatt,
K., &
Spiri´c, Z. (n.d.). Farming the city: Urban agriculture potential in Denver.IGERT
Food Systems Research Group. University of Colorado, Denver.
Brown, G. (March 29, 1954). Denver Post. Denver, CO.
Bunyak, D., Simmons, T. H., & Simmons, L. (2011). Denver Area Post-World War II Suburbs.
Report No. CDOT-2011-6. Prepared by Bunyak Research Associates and Front Range
Research Associates, Inc. Sponsored by Colorado Department of Transportation in coopera-
tion with the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration and
Colorado Department of Transportation Research Branch. Denver, CO.
Cadji, J., & Alkon, A. H. (2015). One day, the white people are going to want these houses
again:Understanding gentrication through the North Oakland farmers market. In S.
Zavetowski & J. Agyeman (Eds.), Incomplete Streets: Processes, Practices, and Possibilities.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Carter, E. (2016). Hancocks affordable housing plan met with doubts. The Colorado Independent.
Retrieved from
Checker, M. (2011). Wiped out by the greenwave: Environmental gentrication and the paradoxi-
cal politics of urban sustainability. City & Society,23(2), 210229.
City of Denver. (2017). Denver food vision. Denver, CO.
Cohen, N. (2018). Feeding or starving gentrication: The role of food policy. New York, NY: CUNY
Urban Food Policy Institute. Retrieved from
3/27/feeding-or-starving-gentrication-the-role-of-food-policy. Accessed on May 21, 2018.
Community Facts. (n.d.). Neighborhood data for the 7-county Denver metro region. Retrieved from Accessed on June 8, 2017.
Curran, W., & Hamilton, T. (2012). Just green enough: Contesting environmental gentrication in
Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Local Environment,17(9), 10271042.
Daftary-Steel, S., Herrera, H., & Porter, C. M. (2015). The unattainable trifecta of urban agriculture.
Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development,6(1), 1932.
Davies, B. (2015). Big money in Denver elections: Developers run this city.The Colorado
Independent. Retrieved from
Denver Housing Authority. (n.d.). DHA sustainability park Block H. Retrieved from http://www.den-
Denver Ofce of Economic Development. (2016). Gentrication study: Mitigating involuntary dis-
placement. Denver, CO. Retrieved from
Dimitri, C., Oberholtzer, L., & Pressman, A. (2016). Urban agriculture: Connecting producers with
consumers. British Food Journal,118(3), 603617.
Ghose, R., & Pettygrove, M. (2014). Urban community gardens as spaces of citizenship. Antipode,
46(4), 10921112.
Gould, K. A., & Lewis, T. L. (2017). Green gentrication: Urban sustainability and the struggle for
environmental justice. New York, NY: Routledge.
Graff, G. D., Berklund, A., & Rennels, K. (2014). The emergence of an innovation cluster in the agri-
cultural value chain along Colorados front range. Fort Collins, CO: Colorado State
Grewal, S. S., & Grewal, P. S. (2012). Can cities become self-reliant in food? Cities,29(1), 111.
Downloaded by Colorado State University, Joshua Sbicca At 07:49 08 March 2019 (PT)
Gudell, S. (2016). A wealth of problems: How the housing bust widened the rich-poor gap. Zillow
Research. Seattle, WA.. Retrieved from
Guitart, D., Pickering, C., & Byrne, J. (2012). Past results and future directions in urban community
gardens research. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening,11(4): 364373.
Gumbinger, K. (2017). Home price recovery index: Which metros have improved the most, least? Retrieved from
Hall, M., Crowder, K., & Spring, A. (2015). Variations in housing foreclosures by race and place,
20052012. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science,660(1),
Jackson, K. T. (1980). Race, ethnicity, and real estate appraisal: The home owners loan corporation
and the federal housing administration. Journal of Urban History,6(4), 419452.
Johnson, R. (2016). The role of local and regional food systems in U.S. farm policy. Washington, DC,
Congressional Research Service.
Kildee, D., & Hovey, A. (2010). What is a land bank? Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Housing
and Urban Development Neighborhood Stabilization Program Toolkit.
Kneebone, E., & Holmes, N. (2016). U.S. concentrated poverty in the wake of the Great Recession.
Washington, DC: Brookings Institute. Retrieved from
Lawson, L. J. (2005). City bountiful: A century of community gardening in America. Berkeley, CA:
University of California Press.
Lees, L., Slater, T., & Wyly, E. (2008). Gentrication. New York, NY: Routledge.
Luning, E. (2010). Hancock enters crowded mayoral race. The Colorado Statesman,111(47),
November 19, 2010.
Maher, J. J. (2005). Building for the future. Westword. Retrieved from
Martellozzo, F., Landry, J. S., Plouffe, D., Seufert, V., Rowhani, P., & Ramankutty, N. (2014).
Urban agriculture: A global analysis of the space constraint to meet urban vegetable demand.
Environmental Research Letters,9(6), 18.
Martinez, M. J. (2010). Power at the roots: Gentrication, community gardens, and the Puerto Ricans
of the lower east side. Plymouth: Lexington Books.
McClintock, N. (2018). Cultivating (a) sustainability capital: Urban Agriculture, ecogentrication,
and the uneven valorization of social reproduction. Annals of the American Association of
Geographers,108(2), 579590.
McClintock, N., Cooper, J., & Khandeshi, S. (2013). Assessing the potential contribution of vacant
land to urban vegetable production and consumption in Oakland, California. Landscape and
Urban Planning,111,4658.
McFetridge, S. (November 25, 2015). Urban farmers nd that success leads to eviction. The
Associated Press. New York, NY.
Molotch, H. (1976). The city as a growth machine: Toward a political economy of place. American
Journal of Sociology,82(2), 309332.
Moulton, J. (1999). Ten steps to a living downtown. The Brookings Institution Center on Urban and
Metropolitan Policy. Washington, DC.
Murray, J. (2014). Denver affordable housing efforts face uncertainty after council vote. Denver Post.
Retrieved from
Murray, J. (2016). Denvers power set honors Mayor Michael Hancock with community enrichment
award. Denver Post. Retrieved from
Oberholtzer, L., Dimitri, C., & Pressman, A. (2014). Urban agriculture in the United States:
Characteristics, challenges, and technical assistance needs. Journal of Extension,52(6). 6FEA1
Ofce of the Clerk and Recorder. (2017). Public trustee historical statistics. City of Denver. Retrieved
foreclosures/foreclosure-stats.html. Accessed on June 7, 2017.
169Urban Agriculture, Revalorization, and Green Gentrication
Downloaded by Colorado State University, Joshua Sbicca At 07:49 08 March 2019 (PT)
Pudup, M. B. (2008). It takes a garden: Cultivating citizen-subjects in organized garden projects.
Geoforum,39(3), 12281240.
Rebchook, J. (2016). S*Park condos under $300,000. Denver Real Estate Watch. Retrieved from
Reynolds, K., & Cohen, N. (2016). Beyond the Kale: Urban agriculture and social justice activism in
New York City. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press.
Rugh, J. S., & Massey, D. S. (2010). Racial segregation and the American foreclosure crisis.
American Sociological Review,75(5), 629651.
Runyon, L. (2015). Is Colorado primed to become the Silicon Valley of agriculture? National Public
Radio. Retrieved from
S*Park. (n.d.). Floor plans. Retrieved from Accessed on June 8,
Safransky, S. (2014). Greening the urban frontier: Race, property, and resettlement in Detroit.
Geoforum,56, 237248.
Safransky, S. (2017). Rethinking land struggle in the postindustrial city. Antipode,49(4), 10791100.
Schlichtman, J. J., Patch, J., & Hill, M. L. (2017). Gentrier. Toronto, Canada: University of
Toronto Press.
Schmelzkopf, K. (1995). Urban community gardens as contested space. Geographical Review,85(3),
Smith, N. (1996). The new urban frontier: Gentrication and the Revanchist City. New York, NY:
Svaldi, A. (2016). Foreclosures continue to haunt displaced homeowners in metro Denver. The
Denver Post. Retrieved from
Thibert, J. (2012). Making local planning work for urban agriculture in the North American context:
a view from the ground. Journal of Planning Education and Research,32(3), 349357.
United States Census Bureau a. (n.d.). S0201: Selected population prole in the United States. 2010
American community survey 1-year estimates. Washington, DC, US Census Bureaus
American Community Survey Ofce.
United States Census Bureau b. (n.d.). S1701: Poverty status in the past 12 months. 20112015
American community survey 5-year estimates. Washington, DC, U.S. Census Bureaus
American Community Survey Ofce.
United States Census Bureau c. (n.d.). S2301: Employment Status. 20112015 American community
survey 5-year estimates. Washington, DC, U.S. Census Bureaus American Community
Survey Ofce.
Voicu, I., & Been, V. (2008). The effect of community gardens on neighboring property values. Real
Estate Economics,36(2), 241283.
Walker, S. (2016). Urban agriculture and the sustainability x in Vancouver and Detroit. Urban
Geography,37(2), 163182.
While, A., Jonas, A. E. G., & Gibbs, D. (2004). The environment and the entrepreneurial city: search-
ing for the urban sustainability; xin Manchester and Leeds. International Journal of Urban
and Regional Research,28(3), 549569.
Wolch, J. R., Byrne, J. B., & Newell, J. P. (2014). Urban green space, public health, and environmen-
tal justice: The challenge of making cities just green enough.Landscape and Urban Planning,
125, 234244.
Wood, E. M. (2002). The origin of capitalism: A longer view. New York, NY: Verso.
Zeppelin, A. (2017). James Beard winner Uchi lands in Denver. Eater Denver. Retrieved from https://
Zukin, S. (1987). Gentrication: Culture and capital in the urban core. Annual Review of Sociology,
13(1), 129147.
Zukin, S. (1991). Landscapes of power: From Detroit to Disney World. Berkeley, CA: University of
California Press.
Downloaded by Colorado State University, Joshua Sbicca At 07:49 08 March 2019 (PT)
... This so-called green gentrification or eco-gentrification, refers to gentrification driven by green infrastructure and green space more broadly. A large body of qualitative and, increasingly, quantitative assessment points to a complex, nonlinear relationship between green space, urban agriculture, and patterns of displacement in cities (see McClintock, 2018;Sbicca, 2019). Work in Portland, New York, and other cities has shown that, even when widespread housing displacement does not occur, urban gardening can, in some cases, constitute a white intrusion into Black and Brown spaces as well as an appropriation of Black and Brown labor and practice (Hoover, 2013;Lal, 2016;McClintock et al., 2016). ...
... Finally, home ownership is regularly cited as the strongest predictor of urban garden development and has long been acknowledged as a key driver of home gardening (Smith, Greene, & Silbernagel, 2013;Comstock et al., 2010;McClintock et al., 2016). It is also pointed to as a predictor of community garden presence and success; this may be because of homeowners' enhanced attachment to social and physical contexts in their neighborhoods (i.e., place attachment - Comstock et al., 2010;Sbicca, 2019). ...
... This in turn leads to difficulty measuring gentrification at the neighborhood level across entire cities, the resolution necessary for large-scale spatial analyses. On the other hand, an assortment of qualitative work has pointed to the role of urban gardens in green gentrification (e.g., McClintock, 2018;Quastel, 2009;Sbicca, 2019), lending credence to the limited quantitative literature and highlighting the importance of continued analysis. ...
Urban agriculture, experiencing a resurgence across the Global North, features prominently in food system sustainability and urban resilience discourse, planning, and policy. Research, however, indicates that racialized gentrification tends to accompany urban agriculture, similar to a phenomenon documented with other green space. This study used remote sensing to map home (N = 478) and community (N = 130) gardens across Detroit, an emblematic legacy city undergoing significant redevelopment. Despite being a city in which seventy-eight percent of the residents are Black, spatial regression revealed that gardens in Detroit are actually more prevalent in non-Black-neighborhoods. Community gardens predominate in neighborhoods where residents are younger, wealthier, and college-educated, while home gardens are more numerous in areas with high rates of home ownership. Modeling also indicated that gardens are in areas with limited access to fresh produce. Contrary to the literature, we did not find a correlation between the presence of gardens and potential gentrification. Gardens, however, are consistently more prevalent in neighborhoods that have stabilized after experiencing high rates of vacancy, foreclosure, and housing demolition. These results have three important implications. First, redevelopment processes in legacy cities such as Detroit, through urban agriculture and other green infrastructure, are likely to lead to garden distributions different than those found in cities with more typical development trajectories. Second, the research calls into question generalized assumptions that expanding green space inevitably leads to gentrification, necessitating deeper investigation of these dynamics in diverse urban settings. And finally, racialized narratives around gardens and redevelopment risk undermining long-standing connections between Detroit’s gardens and environmental justice.
... In cities where land is expensive and desirable, increasing densification (through infill and growth management, for example) aligns with green planning goals, but threatens the availability of vacant land and backyard space that might have been used for food production. Such "contradictions between the twin goals of economic development (in a consumption and housing-driven economy) and environmental sustainability (through local food production)" (Walker, 2016: 171) become starkly apparent when a growing rent gap triggers investment in devalued neighborhoods where gardens abound, as evidenced by a rapidly growing body of literature placing urban agriculture squarely within wider processes of green gentrification (Alkon et al., 2020;Anguelovski et al., 2019;Joassart-Marcelli and Bosco, 2018;McClintock, 2018;Quastel, 2009;Safransky, 2014;Sbicca, 2019;Stanko and Naylor, 2018). In more abstract terms, the sustainability fix begins to fracture as capital flows back in in search of a spatial fix. ...
... Their emergence mirrors the classic 'seesawing 'pattern of urban agriculture taking root when and where there is no immediate 'higher and best use', functioning as a temporary placeholder or stopgap in the lumpengeography of (re)development and thus imbricated within capital's spatial fix and resulting processes of uneven development. However, in Portland and Vancouver, as in other entrepreneurial green cities (Montefrio et al., 2021;Montgomery, 2020;Sbicca, 2019;cf Stanko and Naylor, 2018), urban agriculture projects such as these are mobilized by local growth machine actors as sustainability capital; gardens and goats are tallied as benchmarks of sustainability, images of urban gardens and farms are integrated into local, regional, and global marketing and branding efforts. More than simply greenwashing development, impermaculture arrangements such as these prime the pump for new development by starting the process of aestheticization, branding, and legitimating (re)development before concrete is ever poured. ...
Full-text available
This paper addresses the alliance between some urban agriculturalists, developers, and the local state in promoting a certain type of 'green urbanism 'through what we call' impermaculture,'. Impermaculture is a model of urban agriculture whereby some urban farmers approach their impermanence-the possibility of their operations being replaced by higher value developments-less as a threat to be avoided and more as an intended modus operandi to which they are committed. We discuss how they use lightweight and portable growing containers, planter beds, greenhouses, and livestock pens to operate within and enhance contemporary regimes of development in global North cities. We identify a spatio-temporal impermanence that stands in contrast to classic understandings of sustainability fixes as either a form of greenwashing or as spatial fixes involving the sinking of capital into construction of a 'greener 'built environment. In what follows, we develop a conceptual framework that will facilitate these contributions and provide a language for discussing cases of impermaculture in Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, British Columbia. We discuss how urban agriculture is mobilized as part of the sustainability fix in the two cities. We first demonstrate how impermaculture emerges as a means of stabilizing the fix which is always prone to coming apart, or fracturing. We then draw on two examples-goat husbandry in Portland and temporary gardens in Vancouver-to demonstrate how urban agriculturalists are embracing and leveraging impermanence. This 'impermaculture by design' not only marks a new form of urban agriculture in the neoliberal city but shores up and temporally rescales the sustainability fix while providing urban agriculture initiatives stability.
... In particular, it is important to evaluate a side effect of the phenomenon, namely the involuntary or accidental triggering of processes of gentrification by UA experiments. This is a risk observed for example by some US scholars based on field research and data analysis conducted in San Francisco, Detroit and New York as well as other US cities (Hill, 2018;Paddeu, 2017;Rosan, 2020;Sbicca, 2019). These authors highlight how, by making workingclass and marginal neighborhoods and suburbs more pleasant, green and convivial, UA projects nonetheless can involuntarily encourage and promote processes of revalorization and gentrification. ...
Recent literature has highlighted the role of urban agriculture (UA) in creating more sustainable and equitable cities through social participation and promotion of food and environmental justice. However, in a context of neoliberal urban development, the overall socio-spatial impact of UA remains a subject of intense debate. In particular, whilst some scholars focus on the social justice possibilities contained in UA projects, others draw attention to how UA unintentionally fosters revalorization and gentrification processes through an esthetic and environmental improvement of marginal and working-class neighborhoods and suburbs. This intervention aims to explore these contradictory interpretations of UA and offers some conceptual tools based on concrete practice and empirical evidence for clarifying and potentially also resolving them.
... But in so-called 'green cities' that pride themselves on their leadership and innovations in sustainability, urban agriculture's emergence on vacant land serves another purpose: like other forms of green infrastructure, urban agriculture functions as a form of symbolic 'sustainability capital' that green growth machines can mobilize to attract new investment and more affluent residents (McClintock 2018). Its role in processes of gentrification has therefore become a growing concern of activists and scholars alike (Quastel 2009, Sbicca 2019. Seminal geographic work on gentrification emphasizes the discursive power of 'pioneer' and 'frontier' imaginaries in the 'reclaiming' of inner core urban neighbourhoods (Smith 1996). ...
Full-text available
Drawing on research conducted in three North American cities renowned for their commitment to sustainability – Portland, Vancouver, and Montreal – I illustrate how practitioners and entrepreneurial ‘growth machine’ actors alike employ urban agriculture as a means of valorising vacant properties. Municipal officials cash in on the symbolic sustainability capital that gardens provide, while activists cultivate gardens on vacant lots as a means of ‘reclaiming the city’. A growing body of literature on settler colonialism and racial capitalism, however, elucidates how the discursive production of vacancy underlying such valorisation efforts reproduces settler-colonial logics of racialised dispossession and effaces existing uses, relations, and sovereignties. Even the most progressive of initiatives, such as commoning, frequently turn on such pernicious logics. Vacancy, in this light, takes on new valence as a vital mechanism of (always ongoing) colonisation, and thus also a lively terrain of (longstanding) contestation.
... In these neighborhoods, growers can grow their own culturally relevant, healthy, and affordable produce -thereby promoting food justice and food sovereignty (Bradley & Herrera, 2016). However, urban gardening may reinforce racial and economic disparities many practitioners seek to oppose (Checker, 2011;McClintock, 2018;Roman-Alcalá, 2015;Sbicca, 2019). Recognizing these dynamic tensions is essential for adequately understanding and supporting the important work that urban gardeners undertake. ...
Urban gardeners contribute to sustainable cities and often take great care to limit exposure to soil contaminants like lead (Pb). While best management practices (BMPs) like mulching to reduce soil splash can limit crop contamination, they may not eliminate all contamination for leafy greens, which trap soil particles. How effective is washing at removing Pb contamination from leafy greens when using BMPs? Are certain washing techniques more effective than others? We present results from two experiments addressing these questions. We grew lettuce (Lactuca sativa) in homogenized high Pb (∼1150 mg/kg) and low Pb (∼90 mg/kg) soils in Brooklyn, New York and Ithaca, New York. Our results show that washing can remove 75–94% of Pb from lettuce, including that remaining after the use of contamination‐reducing BMPs. It was estimated that washing removed 97% of Pb deposited by splash, the dominant source of Pb, and removed 91% deposited by downward deposition. All washing techniques were effective at reducing Pb levels, with differences in effectiveness ranked as: commercial soak>vinegar soak>water soak (and water rinse not significantly different from vinegar or water soak). Washing crops grown in low Pb soils is also important. Without washing, lettuces grown in low Pb soil may still have Pb levels above the European Commission comparison value. We offer these empirical findings and recommendations in support of urban growers. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved
... A similar trend can be observed in research by food movement scholars in Canada and beyond. Multiple academic searches for literature speaking to both prisons and the food movement generate scarce results-and the vast majority are from a single author in the US, Sbicca (2012Sbicca ( , 2015Sbicca ( , 2019. 15 In Sbicca's research (2016: 1359) examining instances of food justice grounded in the realities of incarcerated geographies in the US, he suggests that connecting food justice with restorative justice provides a "unique set of strategies to stanch the flow of people into prison." ...
Full-text available
Centering the perspectives and lived experiences of incarcerated persons, this article considers the ways food is used as a tool and site of contestation and possibility within federal prisons in Canada. Focusing specifically on the implementation of and resistance to the Food Services Modernization Initiative, I explore food as “contested terrain” within carceral systems, making visible a range of tactics of resistance employed by incarcerated persons, from testimonials and official complaints to direct collective action. In analyzing these actions and narratives, I reflect on the importance of both food justice and prisoner justice to transforming carceral food systems and call for greater acknowledgment of carceral food systems within food movement discourses and campaigns.
Food supply chains are essential for urban sustainability. To reflect on the state of knowledge on urban food flows in urban metabolism research, and the actual and potential role of urban metabolism studies to tackle food sustainability in cities, we systematically review scientific research on food from an urban metabolism perspective and apply statistical and thematic analyses. The analysis of 89 studies provides insights as to the relation between food supply and (environmental and social dimensions of) urban sustainability. First, food is an important contributor to urban environmental impacts, if a consumption‐based approach is adopted. Secondly, the social impacts of urban food supply remain scarcely studied in urban metabolism research, but emerging results on public health, malnutrition, and food waste appear promising. In parallel, we find that the findings of the studies fail to engage with debates present in the broader literature, such as that of food justice. Our analysis shows that most studies focus on large cities in high‐income, data‐rich countries. This limits our understanding of global urban food supply. Existing studies use innovative mixed‐methods to produce robust accounts of urban food flows in data‐scarce contexts; expanding these accounts is necessary to get a better understanding of how urban food supply and its diverse impacts in terms of environmental and social sustainability may vary across cities, a necessary step for the urban metabolism literature to contribute to current debates around food sustainability and justice.
Urban community gardens can reduce food insecurity and serve as green spaces alleviating extreme temperatures. Such co-benefit synergy may prove especially significant for arid-land metropolises. Despite these synergistic roles, planning for community gardens is largely undertaken in an ad-hoc manner. To date, few studies have addressed the full potential (co-benefits) of developing urban vacant land into community garden-green spaces. We addressed this in a spatially-optimized way, developing a model seeking to mitigate food desert and urban heat, and applied it to the fast sprawling Phoenix metro-area, Arizona (USA). Examining more than 5,000 vacant parcels for potential garden-green spaces, we found that the optimal number and locations of community gardens needed for different mitigation goals can vary significantly. In the Phoenix metro-area, the gardens required for extreme heat mitigation is about twice the number for food desert mitigation because high-temperature areas are more prevalent and expansive in semi-arid desert environment compared to the relatively small number low income, food desert areas. Furthermore, we found that the existing 76 community gardens were mostly clustered around urban cores, leaving two-thirds of the metro-area underserved. If sited in a spatially-optimized way, the co-benefits gained from the 76 gardens could be doubled, and covering more high-need neighborhoods. Integrating fine-scale vacant parcel data, our model identified high potential community garden-greening sites in priority neighborhoods with a precision not capable in conventional planning methods. Our findings demonstrate that spatially-optimized planning is of particular importance to avoid clustering of community gardens and ensure more equal access to local food and outdoor cooling benefits.
Full-text available
This systematic literature review identifies and critiques methodological trends in green gentrification research (focusing on studies of vegetative greening) and provides suggestions for advancing this field. Findings reveal (1) research has largely focused on U.S. case studies; (2) early work employed qualitative methods but quantitative analyses have become more common; (3) little attention has been paid to the influence of greening characteristics/functions and non-greening factors on gentrification; (4) the mechanisms through which greening leads to gentrification are not well understood, particularly on the demand side; and (5) despite being the main concern of green gentrification, displacement has not been well-documented.
China's urban expansion, food security, and energy transition are in a critical situation. One solution is to tap into the green production potential of the built urban environment and explore new ways to save land space and alleviate ecological pressure through food and solar energy production. This paper differs from previous ecological compensation studies, which mostly focus on key ecological functional areas or fiscal compensation mechanisms, in that it innovatively establishes an ecological compensation mechanism within the urban space. In this paper, we propose the "green productive area" of cities as a way to measure the ecological carrying capacity improvement potential of cities from the perspective of urban ecology, and it is based on converting the green resource income of cities into the ecological footprint area they could save under the same conditions. First, a typological approach was used to establish a compensation strategy for green production. Second, a spatial inventory was taken of all elements of the built environment and an analysis of their green production potential was carried out. Finally, it was necessary to establish a unified accounting standard for the ecological land saving benefits of different green production options, which could be converted into green productive land area indicators. In the case of Xuefu Street in Nankai District, Tianjin, the available rooftops and idle land were used for green production, which supplemented the ecological carrying capacity provided by the natural land occupied by 12% of the buildings in the district.
Full-text available
This article investigates the cultural politics of entrepreneurship as a form of opposition to gentrification in Oakland, California. Building on Watkins and Caldwell’s (2004) foundational work, I examine the relationship between political projects - resisting gentrification, racial and economic disparities - and the cultural work of signifying a community’s continued presence amidst displacement and glorification of newcomers. Based on 30 interviews with employees of food justice non-profit organizations, social enterprises, and government agencies, I argue that activists promote food-based entrepreneurship to create employment and business opportunities for long-term residents that enables them to stay in their hometown. In doing so, the contributions of long-standing communities to Oakland’s diverse food cultures are highlighted. However, property values are rising rapidly that even these opportunities cannot ensure that long-term communities remain. For this reason, I conclude by offering examples of direct action and policy advocacy that can supplement these entrepreneurial approaches.
Full-text available
Urban agriculture (UA), for many activists and scholars, plays a prominent role in food justice struggles in cities throughout the Global North, a site of conflict between use and exchange values and rallying point for progressive claims to the right to the city. Recent critiques, however, warn of its contribution to gentrification and displacement. With the use–exchange value binary no longer as useful an analytic as it once was, geographers need to better understand UA's contradictory relations to capital, particularly in the neoliberal sustainable city. To this end, I bring together feminist theorizations of social reproduction, Bourdieu's “species of capital” and critical geographies of race to help demystify UA's entanglement in processes of ecogentrification. In this primarily theoretical contribution, I argue that concrete labor embedded in household-scale UA—a socially reproductive practice—becomes cultural capital that a sustainable city's growth coalition in turn valorizes as symbolic sustainability capital used to extract rent and burnish the city's brand at larger scales. The valorization of UA occurs, by necessity, in a variegated manner; spatial agglomerations of UA and the ecohabitus required for its misrecognition as sustainability capital arise as a function of the interplay between rent gaps and racialized othering. I assert that ecogentrification is not only a contradiction emerging from an urban sustainability fix but is central to how racial capitalism functions through green urbanization. Like its contribution to ecogentrification, I conclude, UA's emancipatory potential is also spatially variegated.
Full-text available
Urban agriculture is increasingly considered an important part of creating just and sustainable cities. Yet the benefits that many people attribute to urban agricultureúfresh food, green space, educational opportunitiesúcan mask structural inequities, thereby making political transformation harder to achieve. Realizing social and environmental justice requires moving beyond food production to address deeper issues such as structural racism, gender inequity, and economic disparities. Beyond the Kale argues that urban agricultural projects focused explicitly on dismantling oppressive systems have the greatest potential to achieve substantive social change. Through in-depth interviews and public forums with some of New York Cityæs most prominent urban agriculture activists and supporters, Kristin Reynolds and Nevin Cohen illustrate how some urban farmers and gardeners not only grow healthy food for their communities but also use their activities and spaces to disrupt the dynamics of power and privilege that perpetuate inequity. Addressing a significant gap in the urban agriculture literature, Beyond the Kale prioritizes the voices of people of color and womenúactivists and leaders whose strategies have often been underrepresented within the urban agriculture movementúand it examines the roles of scholarship in advancing social justice initiatives.
Gentrification and gentrifiers are often understood as 'dirty' words, ideas discussed at a veiled distance.Gentrifiers, in particular, are usually a 'they'. Gentrifier demystifies the idea of gentrification by opening a conversation that links the theoretical and the grassroots, spanning the literature of urban sociology, geography, planning, policy, and more. Along with established research, new analytical tools, and contemporary anecdotes, John Joe Schlichtman, Jason Patch, and Marc Lamont Hill place their personal experiences as urbanists, academics, parents, and spouses at the centre of analysis. They expose raw conversations usually reserved for the privacy of people's intimate social networks in order to complicate our understanding of the individual decisions behind urban living and the displacement of low-income residents. The authors' accounts of living in New York City, San Diego, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Providence link economic, political, and sociocultural factors to challenge the readers' current understanding of gentrification and their own roles within their neighbourhoods. A foreword by Peter Marcuse opens the volume.
Sales of locally produced foods comprise a small but growing part of U.S. agricultural sales. Estimates vary but indicate that local food sales total between $4 billion to $12 billion annually. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that local food sales totaled $6.1 billion in 2012, reflecting sales from nearly 164,000 farmers selling locally marketed foods. This represents 8% of U.S. farms and an estimated 1.5% of the value of total U.S. agricultural production. Most (85%) of all local-food farms are smaller in size, with gross revenues under $75,000. A wide range of farm businesses may be considered to be engaged in local foods. These include direct-to-consumer marketing, farmers’ markets, farm-to-school programs, community-supported agriculture, community gardens, school gardens, food hubs and market aggregators, kitchen incubators, and mobile slaughter units. Other types of operations include on-farm sales/stores, Internet marketing, food cooperatives and buying clubs, pick-your-own or “U-Pick” operations, roadside farm stands, community kitchens, small-scale food processing and decentralized root cellars, and some agritourism or other types of on-farm recreational activities.
Gentrification, the conversion of socially marginal and working-class areas of the central city to middle-class residential use, reflects a movement, that began in the 1960s, of private-market investment capital into downtown districts of major urban centers. Related to a shift in corporate investment and a corresponding expansion of the urban service economy, gentrification was seen more immediately in architectural restoration of deteriorating housing and the clustering of new cultural amenities in the urban core.Research on gentrification initially concentrated on documenting its extent, tracing it as a process of neighborhood change, and speculating on its consequences for reversing trends of suburbanization and inner-city decline. But a cumulation of 10 years of research findings suggests, instead, that it results in a geographical reshuffling, among neighborhoods and metropolitan areas, of professional, managerial, and technical employees who work in corporate, government, and business services.Having verified the extent of the phenomenon, empirical research on gentrification has reached a stalemate. Theoretically interesting problems concern the use of historic preservation to constitute a new urban middle class, gentrification and displacement, the economic rationality of the gentrifier's behavior, and the economic restructuring of the central city in which gentrification plays a part.Broadening the analytic framework beyond demographic factors and neoclassical land use theory is problematic because of serious conceptual and methodological disagreements among neo-Marxist, neo-Weberian, and mainstream analysts. Yet efforts to understand gentrification benefit from the use of economic paradigms by considering such issues as production, consumption, and social reproduction of the urban middle class, as well as the factors that create a supply of gentrifiable housing and demand for it on the part of potential gentrifiers.An emerging synthesis in the field integrates economic and cultural analysis. The mutual validation and valorization of urban art and real estate markets indicates the importance of the cultural constitution of the higher social strata in an advanced service economy. It also underlines how space and time are used in the social and material constitution of an urban middle class.
Green Gentrification looks at the social consequences of urban "greening" from an environmental justice and sustainable development perspective. Through a comparative examination of five cases of urban greening in Brooklyn, New York, it demonstrates that such initiatives, while positive for the environment, tend to increase inequality and thus undermine the social pillar of sustainable development. Although greening is ostensibly intended to improve environmental conditions in neighborhoods, it generates green gentrification that pushes out the working-class, and people of color, and attracts white, wealthier in-migrants. Simply put, urban greening "richens and whitens," remaking the city for the sustainability class. Without equity-oriented public policy intervention, urban greening is negatively redistributive in global cities. This book argues that environmental injustice outcomes are not inevitable. Early public policy interventions aimed at neighborhood stabilization can create more just sustainability outcomes. It highlights the negative social consequences of green growth coalition efforts to green the global city, and suggests policy choices to address them. The book applies the lessons learned from green gentrification in Brooklyn to urban greening initiatives globally. It offers comparison with other greening global cities. This is a timely and original book for all those studying environmental justice, urban planning, environmental sociology, and sustainable development as well as urban environmental activists, city planners and policy makers interested in issues of urban greening and gentrification.