This research project aims to provide the first academic study on emerging forms of UA in the UK and to bring to the front its potential socio-environmental and policy impacts.
Four main objectives are identified:
to analyse emerging urban agricultural practices in the UK (i.e. objectives, values, meanings, claims);
to understand specifically the potential exclusionary and inclusionary dynamics of UA (equity, social and environmental justice, poverty alleviation, participation);
to identify the policy challenges that UA raises (access to land, competing claims on land, externality effects on the environment);
to create a social platform that brings together different stakeholders in critical dialogue and action both as an innovative participatory method in data collection and as an impact tool to produce responsive policy making.
The first three objectives are respectively connected to the following groups of research questions:
Research Question 1
Why is urban agriculture a growing practice in the UK at this current time? What kinds of UA projects are emerging? What are the objectives of UA practitioners? Are they driven by material need (recession, food price hikes, poverty etc.), economic self-interest (business opportunity), and/or environmental concerns (food miles, climate change)? Or is this a deeper manifestation of urban life distress or the search for new community ties?
Research Question 2
How are social cohesion and social exclusion promoted through urban agriculture? What is the potential for urban food growing in the city and for food self-sufficiency? What productivity rates, skills and infrastructures can make UA a key tool for community resilience to the current economic crisis?
Research Question 3
How is UA conceptualised in the political sphere? What role does it play in the arguments of welfare state dismantling, through the forms of self-sufficiency and new localism? How are these views influencing the understanding of UA as an emerging multifaceted “urban culture”?
In order to answer these questions and to achieve impact on policy design and policy implementation, the project is based on an innovative action-research tool: a social platform, a series of workshops, seminars and convivial events facilitated by the PI and co-led by UA stakeholders (please refer to the methodology and the special attachment for further details on the social platform).
This methodological choice explicitly addresses O4 and the societal need to translate academic knowledge into tools for social change. The platform will particularly contextualise the relevance for the RQ1, 2 and 3 to the Leeds city region, addressing the answers to –and the links among — the first three aims to the particular needs of the participants. This research phase will therefore address the following:
Research Question 4
What can we learn from the innovative projects highlighted in O1 and O2?
What resources, skills and institutional support make them successful and what specific pathways to achieve them are needed in the Leeds City Region?
What are the most crucial demands and policy challenges that current policy making struggle to deal with, and which one are specific to the Leeds city region context?
What organisational, infrastructural and regulative models are needed to facilitate the Leeds policy makers’ work in dealing with these challenges and claims?
What measures can be adopted to ensure fair access, land value control and long-term/sustainable practices, and to avoid new exclusionary dynamics connected to the imminent distribution of brown field and underused land?