For three years I have been diligently working toward a masters in landscape architecture degree. This past week I had the pleasure of presenting my masters thesis to the department. Next week I will walk across the stage during commencement and accept my degree.

My thesis is titled Equal Access: Providing Urban Agricultural Benefits to Under-Served Communities. It will be available through interlibrary loan, so even if you attend another school you can still borrow my thesis from your library. It will also be available soon through Google Scholar. In addition, I am posting the thesis in its entirety through the link above for people to easily access. It combines my interest in urban farming with my desire to help under-served communities.

Substantial research identifies access to healthy foods as a significant barrier for under-served communities. Urban farm locations could be more strategically planned to connect healthy food access to these vulnerable communities. In this study, under-served communities are those at highest risk for food insecurity, childhood obesity and poor community cohesion (high crime and few public gathering spaces).

Studies have shown that urban farms contribute to the surrounding community by increasing:
  • Nutrition: easily accessible, practical experience with healthy foods
  • Food security: flexible payment options, affordability
  • Community Cohesion: lower crime, catalyst for change, civic participation

In addition to these three primary benefits, urban farms also offer these secondary benefits:

  • Work Opportunities
  • Stronger local economy
  • Farmer stability
  • Mentorship for next generation farmers
  • Preservation of historic (now urban) farm sites

I used a program called GIS to map where under-served communities live in Portland. The areas at highest risk of food insecurity, childhood obesity and poor community cohesion were the areas most in need of increased access to an urban farm (shown above).

 

The final step of my project was looking at sites in those neighborhoods that could be suitable for large-scale farming. I created a set of criteria of what makes a good urban farm site and used GIS to find sites in these at risk neighborhoods. The final five sites that met my criteria are shown above. My project examined the challenges and opportunities associated with each site.

I am really proud of the work I produced and am excited for it to be available for others to review. I never got tired of my thesis topic, despite months and months of working away at it. You and I are doing our part to put healthy food on our tables. This project was my way of making a contribution toward putting healthy food on many more people’s tables.

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