06 October 2010

Live Blog: Laura Lawson, Rutgers

Dr. Laura Lawson
Chair, Department of Landscape Architecture
Community Gardens: Trend or Fad?

Official Summary:
To some, the recent upsurge in interest to start community gardens, school gardens, and socially-based urban agriculture programs is a reactionary fad that satisfies the impulse to “do something” amid multiple social, economic, and environmental crisis. To others, however, it represents a trend towards more sustainable communities and food systems. Which is it? Acknowledging the many timely benefits associated with such programs, it is also important to frame community gardening in the context of over one hundred years of advocacy and programs.  This presentation will describe the evolution of community gardening from the 1890s to present.  While past phases tended to be opportunistic and temporary responses to social and environmental concerns, today’s programs are increasingly framed as permanent resources to serve individuals and communities. Developing and sustaining gardens that in turn sustain communities requires attention to land tenure, community outreach, and engagement of a wider network of support.

 With the beginning of this fall semester, Dr. Lawson has taken over the leadership of the Department of Landscape Architecture. She has joined us from the University of Illinois, where she was a member of the Landscape Architecture faculty and Director of their East St. Louis Action Research Project.  Laura has been involved in a broad range of landscape architecture practice and teaching.  Her scholarship focuses on community building through landscape design and activism.  We highly recommend her books, especially City Bountiful: A Century of Community Gardening in America (University of California Press, 2005).

 Let the liveblog begin...

What are the benefits?
What is our contribution as LAs?
  Turning red squares into green squares
What does it take to sustain an urban garden program?

The history goes back to the 1890s
One example is the creation of Vacant Lot Cultivation Associations (1893-1897)
   a response to the depression
Then there was a children's school garden movement (photos)
Vacant lots and backyards became important resources
War gardens of WWI
  A community effort
   then everyone celebrated the end of war by getting away from this
Relief and subsistence gardens (1931-1935)
  Selling food was discouraged - use it as local aid but don't compete with farmers
WWII Victory gardens (1941-1945) were much more notable - but some wondered whether it was efficient
10 days after Pearl Harbor the desire to do more was so great that the government embraced it
  treat it as a lifestyle

  Victory Garden posters
  The response from landscape architecture? "Yes, but with discretion."
Community Garden Movement (1970s-????)

Learning from Successes: Seattle
Seattle is a major success - P-Patch Program
Here is Thistle from above:

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Here is Bradner Gardens P-Patch in StreetView:

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One of the challenges today is that they are still seen as temporary by many people and viewed as a very local use.  (You can drop in and play soccer at the park, but you can't drop in and eat a carrot at a garden, unless you are willing to let Mr McGregor chase you.)

Urban Personalities
Place-based character and sustainability
Why are Chicago's gardens different than other places
_Great organizations, but does the alderman system keep them from coordinating better?  Redundancies occur
_Growing native plants instead of veggies
_NeighborSpace Land Trust

Land availability in Detroit creates a different pattern - 10 month growing season (hot houses, etc.)
Food desert forces more farming than gardening

Important enough that streets get named after this:

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Community + Garden

Here is a nicely maintained community garden in the Boston Fens that we saw on a Fall Field Trip several years ago.  You should join us on the next trip...

We didn't need to ask 3 Landscapes because we did it so recently.

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