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Equity and Inclusion
in the Garden

While much has been written about issues of inclusion and diversity in the alternative food movement, little of this research has focused on immigrants and refugees, a growing population in urban agriculture. With over 3,000 community gardens in the US and 14 % of American population being foreign born, further exploration of how urban agriculture spaces like community gardens can function as spaces for belonging and inclusion is needed. This case study research takes place in Lansing, Michigan, a Rust Belt city with a growing urban agriculture system, including over 100 community gardens facilitated by the Greater Lansing Food Bank Garden Project (GLFBGP). In 18 gardens directly managed by the GLFBGP, 20% of the gardeners are refugees or immigrants. O


Our community engaged biocultural mapping project in three of these gardens included ethnographic interviews and drawings with refugee and immigrant gardeners and a focus group with garden leaders from highly-enrolled immigrant and refugee gardens.We set out to better understand 1) the motivations of immigrants and refugees to engage in community gardening and 2) the ways the community garden experience facilitates belonging and inclusion both in the food system and in the local community. Our results illuminated four factors that facilitate inclusion and belonging of immigrant and refugee gardeners in the community garden network: (1) Social cohesion facilitated by altruistic activities and community building; (2) The process of replicating and adapting knowledge and being able to learn and teach; (3) Diverse incentives to bring immigrant and refugee gardeners; and (4) Place based vision and resources that facilitate inclusion and belonging. This research can help to create a more inclusive and welcoming alternative food systems movement, as well as inform best practices for community engaged food systems research.  

Schedule a presentation to learn about the practical recommendations your community garden group or non-profit can implement. 

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