The New Trifecta: Gardens, Race, and Class

We recently came across this interesting speech about community gardens presented at Duke University on January 19th by Tom Philpott. With Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as the focal point, Philpott brought out many other current issues facing economically and racially marginalized people in the United States. He addresses both structural, class-based problems and the problem with U.S.-brand individualism.

Of particular note are the following passages:
In our society, there's a strong focus on individual solutions to the problems I'm laying out here. Commentators focus on personal choice; we are urged to "transform our food system one bite at a time" by exercising our consumer power to buy fresh, local, sustainably raised food.

But the choices we have are limited by structural forces. Yes, people need to take responsibility for their food choices, but if we're really going to throw off the dead hand of industrial food, we need to transform the conditions under which people make their food choices. ...

Now, if I argue that an emphasis on personal virtue is inadequate, I can't claim that creating structural change is easy. The forces I've laid out here -- wage stagnation, corporate consolidation, farm subsidies, monoculture agriculture -- are vast. They're well designed to make individuals feel impotent.

And that's where community gardening comes in. Community gardening is an individual act that puts people into direct contact with their neighbors -- inviting people to interact, make decisions by consensus, hash out differences. And by collectively transforming urban land into a resource for growing fresh, healthy food, community gardeners are creating small-scale, on-the-ground solutions to the large-scale and abstract problems I've laid out here.
Read the entire speech at
Image: Neighborhoods Garden Assoc.
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1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:45 AM

    Great find. The discussion about the corporate-capitalist system and the individualism it spawns is not being had enough. Humanity has historically been a community-based species, and efforts to bring that back into present-day society (especially in the U.S.) may be what helps us out of these economic and environmental crises we find ourselves in.


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