Although the most pressing environmental problems we face are rooted in national, or even global systems, responsibility for solving them has fallen to local communities. This contradiction, between the scale of the problems and the resources available to treat them, can be a source of enormous economic and political difficulties. However, if managed correctly, embracing an environmental ethic can also be a source of great strength, and a potential boon for economic development.
Despite the increasing popularity and visibility of various forms of urban agriculture — from community gardens, to backyard chickens, and beyond — urban development and agricultural development are still understood largely as opposing forces. More of one means less of the other. Scholars have begun to peel back this limiting interpretation of the effects of urban agriculture on food accessibility, social capital formation, and mental and physical health. However, the impact of urban agriculture on impoverished cities and the larger economy remains unclear.
The 2019 Rutgers University Graduate Student Conference on State and Local Economic Development (SLED) in Camden, New Jersey will focus on the critical intersection between urban agriculture and economic development, exploring new tools for measuring urban agriculture and its impact on the local economy, employment and workforce development issues, and questions about the promise and limits of urban agriculture in advancing social and economic justice.
This year’s conference themes are: