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Life Sciences - Agriculture | Informal Urban Agriculture - The Secret Lives of Guerrilla Gardeners

Informal Urban Agriculture

The Secret Lives of Guerrilla Gardeners

Hardman, Michael, Larkham, Peter J.

2014, X, 208 p. 35 illus., 34 illus. in color.

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  • First major critical evaluation of guerrilla gardening in the UK
  • Responds to increasing concerns for local food production and food security
  • Urban agriculture, such as guerrilla gardening, could improve many spaces - large and small - in every town or city

The book explores how unused and under-used urban spaces – from grass verges, roundabouts, green spaces – have been made more visually interesting, and more productive, by informal (and usually illegal) groups known as “guerrilla gardeners”.  The book focuses on groups in the English Midlands but the work is set in a broad international context.  We show, through detailed observation and interviews, the differing motivations of groups and individuals involved in trying to produce edible crops on a small scale in the ‘forgotten landscapes’ of towns and cities.  Some are illegal by design, looking for the thrills – the “naughtiness” as some say - in doing this secretly; but others simply have not obtained the right permissions from land owners.  Guerrilla gardening has usually been presented uncritically, a generic “good thing” – and we present a more critical and balanced evaluation of the activity.  The amount of un- and used-used space is surprisingly high, although the amount of food that can be produced in this way will be relatively small.  However, local involvement in food production, in beautifying the environment even for a short while, can make a lot of difference.

Michael Hardman is Lecturer in Geography at the University of Salford, and Peter J. Larkham is Professor of Planning at Birmingham City University.

Content Level » Research

Keywords » Food Production - Gardening - Guerilla Gardening - Temporary land use - Urban Agriculture - Urban Space

Related subjects » Agriculture - Ecology - Social Sciences - Sustainable Development

Table of contents 

Chapter 1. Guerrilla Urban Agriculture: Unearthing the Hidden Movement
Urban Agriculture and Guerrilla Gardening
Exploring the Movement
Overview of the Book: Why Guerrilla Gardening?
Approaching the Research: Working with Guerrillas
Chapter 2. Cultivating the City
Nature and Cities
From Survival to Niche: Reflecting on Food Growing in the Global North
Everyday UA: Allotments, Community Gardens and Emerging Spaces of Production
Should UA be Encouraged? Exploring Local Food Criticisms
The Roots of Informal UA
Chapter 3. Unearthing the Unpermitted Movement
Introduction: Informal Action in the Urban
Guerrilla Gardening: The Rise of Radical Agriculture
Why Choose the ‘Illegal’ Route? Reasons for Guerrilla Gardening
Chapter 4. On the Ground with Guerrillas: An Ethnographical Reflection
Researching Guerrilla Gardeners
A First-Hand Personal Reflection: Interacting with Guerrillas on the Ground
Is Guerrilla Gardening Illegal?
Interacting with the Guerrillas: An Ethnographic Reflection on the Action
The Stories of F Troop and the WG: Key Messages
Chapter 5. Deconstructing the Key Messages: Analysing F Troop and the Women’s Group
Reviewing Practice
Summarising F Troop’s Actions: Unpacking the Digs
Maintaining the UA Site
F Troop and the Wider Guerrilla Movement
Legitimisation: The Ultimate Path for F Troop?
F Troop: Questioning the Group’s Future UA Ambitions
The Women’s Group: Unconscious Guerrilla Gardeners?
Food and the WG: Transforming Urban Greenspace for UA
The WG and the Wider Guerrilla Movement
Chapter 6. Who Owns this Space? Authorities and Guerrilla Gardeners
Introduction: Contesting the Ownership of Space
Challenging Conventional Practice: Is UA Suitable for the Two Sites?
(Re)Imagining Urban Space: The Adoption of an Illegal Route
Hidden Sites: Over-Bureaucracy and the Failure to Notice Change
Unlawful Action under the Noses of Authority: Implications of the Illegal Route
Working with Guerrillas: Constructing a Future with Authority
Chapter 7. Exploring Impact: Consulting Actors Surrounding Guerrilla Gardening Sites
Questioning the Impact of Guerrilla Gardening
Assessing the Impact of Unregulated UA
The Community and F Troop: Deconstructing the Relationship
Reflecting on The WG: The Community Garden…A Place for the Community?
Critically Assessing Guerrilla Practice
Who Benefits from the UA? Summarising the Impact of the Guerrilla Action
Concluding Remarks: The Emergence of a ‘Guerrilla Trap’
Chapter 8. Guerrilla Gardeners, Urban Agriculture, Food and the Future
Reflecting on the Case Studies
Future Research: Observing Guerrillas in the Wild
The Wider Relevance of this Book

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