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School of Environment and Natural Resources


Graduate Exit Seminar - Kelsey Ryan-Simkins

Plan to join Kelsey Ryan-Simkins's graduate exit seminar on August 11, 2023, at 2:00 pm via Zoom. Kelsey will present, "Planting the Seeds of Food Justice: A Mixed-Methods Examination of Equity in The Practices and Outcomes of Urban Agriculture in Ohio."

Abstract: Urban agriculture organizations frequently embrace food justice goals such as racial equity and improved food access for people with low-income; however, other they may also inadvertently perpetuate race- and class-based inequalities in the food system. I use mixed methods to examine to what extent urban agriculture in Ohio provides benefits that are equitable.

First, I use multilevel negative binomial regression to examine the relationship between the number of urban agriculture sites in each census tract within an urbanized area in Ohio and tract demographics, measures of food access, vacant housing, gentrification, and historic redlining. My findings challenge representations of urban agriculture as pervasively white and raise questions about the role food access rhetoric plays in establishing urban farms and community gardens.

Second, I present case studies of urban agriculture in two gentrifying neighborhoods in Columbus, Ohio. Drawing on data from 49 semi-structured interviews and over 75 hours of participant observation, I find that neighborhood context, organizational structure, and leadership demographics affect attitudes about gentrification and the challenges each organization encountered in trying to promote racial justice and healthy equity. Lastly, I examine urban agriculture buy-in through analysis of responses to a mail-based survey of a random sample of residents in each neighborhood (N=249, 17% response rate), finding that there are disparities in attitudes toward and involvement in urban agriculture.

Together, this research aims to understand to what extent urban agriculture organizations are achieving the goals of the food justice movement. This research contributes to a broader agenda of understanding the successes and pitfalls of well-intentioned efforts to create alternative social structures.

Advisor: Kerry Ard