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Public Produce: The New Urban Agriculture [Paperback]

by Darrin Nordahl
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 23, 2009 1597265888 978-1597265881
Public Produce makes a uniquely contemporary case not for central government intervention, but for local government involvement in shaping food policy. In what Darrin Nordahl calls “municipal agriculture,” elected officials, municipal planners, local policymakers, and public space designers are turning to the abundance of land under public control (parks, plazas, streets, city squares, parking lots, as well as the grounds around libraries, schools, government offices, and even jails) to grow food.
Public agencies at one time were at best indifferent about, or at worst dismissive of, food production in the city. Today, public officials recognize that food insecurity is affecting everyone, not just the inner-city poor, and that policies seeking to restructure the production and distribution of food to the tens of millions of people living in cities have immediate benefits to community-wide health and prosperity.
This book profiles urban food growing efforts, illustrating that there is both a need and a desire to supplement our existing food production methods outside the city with  opportunities inside the city. Each of these efforts works in concert to make fresh produce more available to the public. But each does more too: reinforcing a sense of place and building community; nourishing the needy and providing economic assistance to entrepreneurs; promoting food literacy and good health; and allowing for “serendipitous sustenance.” There is much to be gained, Nordahl writes, in adding a bit of agrarianism into our urbanism.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

81597265REVIEW:Arguing for a systematic overhaul to the modern American way of growing and processing their food, city planner Nordahl condemns "petrophile agribusiness" as no less than a threat to national security. To combat the growing crisis in health and consumption, Nordhal advocates a common-sense reassessment of local food practices, in which forgotten public spaces like empty lots and curbsides are reclaimed and seeded with fruits and vegetables; public gardens and parks, too, can easily blend aesthetically pleasing plant-life with functional food producers. Considering practical questions of policy and maintenance, Nordahl introduces innovative ways to feed a locality while helping "build revenue and community pride"; he cites cases like U.C. Davis, where groundskeepers transformed the campus's problematic olive trees (a perennial, path-slicking hazard for bicycles) into a profitable olive oil label. The paradigm shifts necessary to transform a community's relationship to agriculture are, in Nordhal's explanation, simpler than most would think, beginning with easy steps like public "food festivals" and city measures encouraging the planting of fruit trees and vegetable gardens. Nordhal's vision of a quiet revolution is vividly outlined in this volume, which should doubtless catch on among the slow food, locavore, and community gardening movements. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“A thought-provoking work about the food-producing potential of urban public space, and a worthwhile read for everyone who does food policy work.”

(Benjamin Thomases Food Policy Coordinator, City of New York 2009-07-30)

“Nordahl is a visionary who shows how easily cities could promote urban agriculture to the great benefit of all concerned. This book is at the cutting edge of today’s food revolution.  Read it and get your city council to sign up!”

(Marion Nestle, professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at NYU; author of What to Eat 2009-07-18)

“What Darrin Nordahl envisions in this lively book is nothing short of a revolutionary way of seeing cities, a kind of edible urbanism. This is a book that will likely shape the urban agenda for years to come.”

(Timothy Beatley Teresa Heinz Professor of Sustainable Communities, University of Virginia 2009-07-11)

"Public Produce is a wonderful primer for students, planners, designers, and activists for food security and urban produce. Nordahl's personal and down-to-earth style will educate and inspire the average citizen interested in food policy or urban design, and his expertise in urban issues will give clarity to professional planners and designers on this complex subject."
(Claire Latane ASLA Book Review)

"Darrin Nordahl, director of Iowa's Davenport Design Center, has written a paean to urban agriculture in Public Produce: The New Urban Agriculture. Nordahl is an advocate of "fresh produce grown on public land, and thus available to all members of the public-for gathering or gleaning, for purchase or trade." Nordahl deals effectively with issues such as food literacy, maintenance, and aesthetics."
(Harold Henderson Planning Magazine Book Review)

“This vital book shows how growing food on public land can transform our civic landscape, sprouting the seeds of biodiversity, sustainability, and community.”

(Alice Waters Chez Panisse 2009-07-29)

Product Details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Island Press (September 23, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597265888
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597265881
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.9 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #886,855 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Darrin's books have been featured in a wide media continuum, from The American Conservative to Jezebel, the sex, fashion, and gossip website for women. He has been interviewed by NPR, Bloomberg News, The Globe and Mail, and television, magazines, and newspapers throughout the United States and Canada

For more information on Darrin's speaking schedule and biography, please visit his Facebook page or his website:

Customer Reviews

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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Public land for public produce February 13, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Public Produce: The New Urban Agriculture may be ahead of its time. It poses an interesting question to city and town planners - and we, the residents: should local food production rank right up there with planning for local housing, roads and education?

Darrin Nordahl who has taught at the University of California Extension in Berkeley and now works for the Community and Economic Development Department in Davenport, Iowa, considers municipally sponsored agricultural projects a natural extension of the "post organic/buy local" movement. He presents some stunning projects to prove his point. Local governments can become a change agent in the area of local food production.

Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago, who reasons that "importing some food is different from importing most of it," houses a 200,000-member apiary on the green roof of City Hall. Sale of its honey supports local cultural events. Kaiser Permanente, the largest health organization in the country, opens Farmers Markets in thirty of its facilities from Georgia to Hawaii. The first, in Oakland, California, was started because a Kaiser doctor is convinced that "nothing is more important to people's health that what they eat everyday."

In Detroit, Michigan, 30 percent of the city's land is vacant. Community groups have converted these underused locations into local opportunities to produce food. Detroit's urban farming recently sparked stories in the New York Times. Seattle adopted a city-wide goal: create a dedicated garden site for each 2,500 households. Providence, Rhode Island intends to double the amount of food grown in and around the city in the next ten years. Des Moines, Iowa, has already moved beyond public food gardens to establish public orchards, grape arbors and a nuttery.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars For Activists, not gardeners January 12, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you want to plant a garden, and seek information on seeds, weeding, fencing and similar practical stuff, this is not the right book for you. My favorite book of that type for beginners is the Square Foot Garden by Mel Bartholomew. An extensive how-to is The Complete Idiot's Guide to Urban Homesteading by Sundari Kraft. There are many other wonderful books for gardeners of edible food.

This book was written to provide information for activists seeking to promote urban gardening in their cities and towns. It discusses laws against lining the streets with edible-fruit or edible-nut trees, how to get city hall to encourage their city landscapers to include edibles in their growing, and other aspects of working with local government.

There is discussion of the poor nutritional quality of much of today's Big Agriculture food, the pleasures of finding edible food after a tiring hike, and other reasons our cities should not be food deserts. If you are looking for information like that which will help restore city humans to nature, then this book will help you.

We live in times so artificial as to threaten human well-being. There is a very urgent need to wise up city folk about the ways of the Earth and Nature. Therefore I hope this book sells well and is skillfully used by those seeking to heal "the planet." But I suspect most of those looking at this book will do better with a completely different book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Got this book for a class.... March 6, 2014
By Alice
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I got this book for a class, so far it is okay. obviously my professors enjoyed it enough to make us buy it, my class mates seem to like it also. If you are interested in Urban Ag. this book is a some what short read, it is only about half an thick, I do not remember page numbers, and it is very interesting.
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