Presented by Jennifer Nicklay, Department of Soil, Water and Climate
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Spaces of urban food cultivation (UFC) can be important sites for community-led efforts that increase food sovereignty and repair ecological relationships. In Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN, there are several farms, over 600 community gardens, and innumerable home gardens. Many leverage UFC to build on community strengths to address systemic challenges; however, this is often not legible to existing science and policy frameworks that more narrowly focus on symptoms – most often soil contamination and food access – while ignoring the systems that created these challenges. Thus, growers, organizers, and researchers together identified the need for a UFC metrology that centered relationships and facilitated discourse across positionalities. For over three years, I’ve worked closely with ten community partners across four farm/garden organizations to measure the impact of UFC practices on over 20 metrics of ecosystem services, including soil, plant, and water quality; biodiversity; and nutrient cycling. We hope these metrics – going far beyond contaminants and yield – open a more holistic understanding of the socio-ecological drivers, impacts, and relationships of UFC. In this session, I’ll share the history of our project, preliminary results, and our approach to participatory data analysis that help us not just describe what is but create paths towards food system transformations.