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Types of urban agricultural stakeholders and their understandings of governance

Zachary Piso, Department of Philosophy, University of Dayton
Lissy Goralnik, Department of Community Sustainability, Michigan State University
Julie C. Libarkin, Geocognition Research Lab, Michigan State University
Maria Claudia Lopez, Department of Community Sustainability, Michigan State University


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Urban agriculture is a significant driver of urban sustainability and resilience, yet the contribution of urban agriculture to resilience is complicated by governance systems that require further investigation. This study deploys a mixed-methods approach to investigate the agricultural values and understandings of urban agricultural governance among farmers, garden leaders, and other actors in urban agriculture in Lansing, Michigan. Drawing from semistructured interviews and Q-methodology, agricultural values are used to identify four types of urban agriculture stakeholders: urban agricultural stewards, risk managers, food desert irrigators, and urban agricultural contextualists. These groups differ in terms of their agricultural values as well as their participation in local governance and general understandings of the purpose of governance. Urban agricultural stewards place comparatively higher priority on community building, environmental sustainability, and food sovereignty; they participate in the city’s formal governance systems and view governance as an opportunity to codify shared norms. Risk managers place comparatively higher priority on safety, and they largely view governance in the traditional mold of state-legislated regulations to which stakeholders should comply. Food desert irrigators place comparatively higher priority on environmental sustainability, health, food access, and convenience; they expect governance to support stakeholders with the greatest needs, and though not active in formal governance, work to craft empathetic policies in their particular organizations. Urban agricultural contextualists place comparatively higher priority on community building and health, and hold that the prioritization of additional values should be determined through local and inclusive governance. The coupling of agricultural values with understandings of governance can support effective and legitimate policy making attentive to the process through which, and scale at which, stakeholders expect their values to inform decision making.

Key words

Lansing, MI; Q method; qualitative research; stewardship; urban agriculture; values

Copyright © 2019 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087