- Paperback: 200 pages
- Publisher: Libri Publishing (April 1, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0981243428
- ISBN-13: 978-0981243429
- Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 0.7 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,148,646 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Agricultural Urbanism: Handbook for Building Sustainable Food & Agric Systems in 21st Century Cities
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Agricultural Urbanism is one of those books whose strategize is to categorize and exhort. In categorizing, it says that a functioning system needs to have a list of characteristics and then it urges that every one of those characteristics be done appropriately. One example epitomizes this:
>Buildings are some of the most important elements in urban design for defining a community's function and character. Surrounding any building is the open space of a city, including its streets, plazas, parks, private gardens, and waterfronts. The interface between the external food program and that associated with any building is key for the overall system to function well (p. 127).
This to me reads like landscape architectural ad copy and I don't find it especially enlightening. It doesn't get at why things have been built the way they have been. It simply demonstrates that someone can abstractly imagine something different without truly making the case that it ought to be that way or showing how to get there. It just feels like planners have caught the foodie bug that has swept North America over the last five to ten years.
What I found particularly telling is the breezy attitude towards corporations: the book explicitly states that it's pretty much going to assume that corporations are going to behave ethically. Well, if that were the case, then there probably wouldn't be much need for this book. I'd rather have an intelligent discussion about how the environment they work in encourages businesses to act in ways that aren't to anyone's long-term interests, like how the combination of low food costs and high labor costs encourage restaurants to super-size portions.
The exception to the dreamy quality of all of this is a chapter by Peter Ladner on urban agriculture as a business. It's much more realistic in its recognition of urban ag as a business model: it faces very real challenges as it tries to occupy a niche market. A whole book in this vein would have been eye-opening.
April 2011 update: if you have access to a book budget through a job or academic department, the staggeringly expensive new Planning Advisory Service report (Jan. 2011) is something that a planner --- or someone interacting with planners --- would likely find (modestly) more useful. The report is entitled Urban Agriculture: Growing Healthy, Sustainable Places by Kimberly Hodgson, Marcia Caton Campbell, and Martin Bailkey. Of course, if you have a budget that can stomach that report, it can probably also afford this book even if it's not an efficient use of resources.