Coffee Hour: Growing a sustainable city? The question of urban agriculture

Friday, February 5, 2016 - 3:30pm
NOTE LOCATION CHANGE Refreshments are offered in 225 Walker Building at 3:30 p.m. The lecture begins in 112 Walker Building at 4:00 p.m.

About the talk

Urban agriculture looms large in the urban imaginary and plays an increasingly prominent role in discourses about the sustainable city of the future. Often characterized by advocates as a panacea, gardening and farming programs serve as solutions for blighted vacant lots, food insecurity, stormwater runoff, and unemployment, among other urban issues. This enthusiasm has led to the institutionalization of urban farming in city land policy, promising to ease the vulnerability of farm sites as stop-gap measures during periods of crisis to more permanent features in the urban environment. What are the implications of this formalization? This presentation questions the role(s) of urban agriculture in the “sustainable” city through a case study of urban agriculture in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In spite of widespread enthusiasm, the motivations among actors are varied and sometimes conflicting, as urban agriculture has become professionalized, racialized, and politicized. Tensions among stakeholders over competing objectives have started to emerge, and questions of land access and tenure, the use of economic resources, and the long-term viability of urban agriculture shape the political discourse about the future of growing in the city and its role in promoting urban sustainability.

About the speaker

Hamil PearsallHamil Pearsall is an assistant professor in the Geography and Urban Studies Department of Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Her research bridges several themes in human-environment and human geography: the social dimension of sustainability; environmental justice and health; and community resilience to environmental and economic stressors. Her recent work has focused on environmental gentrification, the role of vacant land in urban greening efforts, and the impact of environmental justice on urban sustainability planning. She uses GIS and qualitative approaches in her work. She holds a Ph.D. and M.A. from the Graduate School of Geography at Clark University. Prior to joining the faculty at Temple in 2012, she was an assistant professor of GIScience in the International Development, Community, and Environment Department at Clark University.


Suggested reading

  • Lawson, L. (2004). The planner in the garden: A historical view into the relationship between planning and community gardens. Journal of Planning History, 3(2), 151-176.
  • McClintock, N. (2014). Radical, reformist, and garden-variety neoliberal: coming to terms with urban agriculture's contradictions. Local Environment, 19(2), 147-171.        

Contact us

Penn State encourages qualified persons with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation or have questions about the physical access provided, please contact Angela Rogers in advance of your participation or visit.

Angela Rogers   office: 814-863-4562  email:

Coffee Hour