Taylor and collaborator Sarah Lovell, who’ve published their findings in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning, ultimately discovered that many of the city’s suspected community gardens weren’t producing food at all. But it turned out that backyard farmers all over Chicago – the keepers of “invisible” gardens no one sees from the sidewalk – may be seriously supplementing communities’ food supply in a way that researchers and advocates haven’t recognized before.
Of the 1,236 documented “community gardens,” recognized by various groups throughout the city, it turned out only 160 – or 13 percent – were really growing food (according to aerial images from June of 2010). But trolling over the city, frame by frame on Google Earth, Taylor found what looked like 4,494 possible sites of urban agriculture, many of which appeared to be small residential gardens. Their total mass adds up to 264,181 square meters of urban agriculture, much of it on the city’s South and West sides and far northwest where minority and immigrant communities are located.
“There is often this idea that urban agriculture is something that’s new and sometimes perceived to be trendy,” Taylor says. “But of course it’s just been going on for generations in people’s backyards and in these interstitial spaces, like right-of-ways and vacant lots. Across the city, there are lots of folks who are doing this on their own, or with support from their neighbors.”
- Detroit’s Urban Agriculture Zoning Moves Ahead (detroit.cbslocal.com)
- Urban Agriculture Zoning in Chicago. (pols3310.wordpress.com)
- Data From Google Earth Helps to Uncover Chicago’s Hidden Urban Farms (inhabitat.com)