Digging through urban agriculture with feminist theoretical implements
This article considers the value of using tools from feminist theory to explore the efforts of urban agriculture initiatives that practice to some extent outside the formal economy. Such a lens looks beyond the presence of women in specific projects to the value, extent, purpose, and principles of these projects’ efforts. These community-based food initiatives strive to provide alternatives to dominant food production practices, but their efforts are often constrained by limited access to financial, labour, time, and political resources. Despite parallels between their work and what has traditionally been dubbed “women’s work,” the feminization of urban agriculture initiatives in Canada has received little attention in the academic literature. In this article, I revisit a case study of Durham Integrated Growers (DIG), an umbrella organization supporting urban agriculture projects, practices, and values across Durham Region, Ontario. This case study represents one of several conducted through Nourishing Communities Research Group to explore the potential of food systems groups working in the social economy to benefit local communities and the environment. This earlier research on DIG revealed themes involving the need for community expertise to be recognized, the role of public policy, the effects of relying on unpaid labour, and the centrality of building community. By exploring these themes within feminist framings of knowledge, work, power, care, and community, I find many areas where DIG’s work could be better understood through feminist theoretical lenses. Although more study is required on a broader range of community-based food initiatives, this research suggests that a feminist theoretical lens may provide a useful resource for illuminating and revaluating the practical, educational, and relational efforts of those working in them.