Digging in: Toward a more just urban garden land policy





Urban Agriculture, Urban Land Access, Municipal Governance, Local Policy, Food Justice, Land Justice, Racial Equity, City Parks


Surging interest in urban agriculture has prompted cities across North America to adopt policies that give gardeners access to publicly owned land. However, if not carefully designed, these policies can exacerbate existing racial inequities. Drawing on theories of urban and environmental justice, we use a contextualized case comparison to explore the radical potential and practical constraints of garden land policies at two distinct institutions: the City of Minneapolis and the independently elected Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. Based on participant observation, document review, and interviews with a range of policy actors, we argue that what appear to be minor, common-sense policy details systematically shape who benefits from the garden land policies, sometimes in surprising ways. Compared to the City, the Park Board goes substantially further in addressing racial equity. Furthermore, though both cases included public participation, we argue that the more inten­sive participation during the Park Board policy development process—particularly in determining the details—was pivotal in crafting a policy that reduced barriers to racial equity. The present study contributes to the growing scholarship on urban agriculture and environmental governance and offers concrete insights for actors working toward more just policies.


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Author Biographies

Hannah Ramer, University of Minnesota

PhD candidate, Natural Resources Science and Management, University of Minnesota. Hannah Ramer is now a Postdoctoral Associate in Geog­raphy, Environment & Society, University of Minnesota.

Kristen C. Nelson, University of Minnesota

Professor, Head of the Department of Forest Resources, Department of Forest Resources and Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology



How to Cite

Ramer, H., & Nelson, K. (2023). Digging in: Toward a more just urban garden land policy. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 12(4), 1–21. https://doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2023.124.013