Disparity Despite Diversity: Social Injustice in New York City’s Urban Agriculture System


Many studies have documented the benefits of urban agriculture, including
increased food access, job creation, educational opportunities, and green space. A focus on its social benefits has fed an association of urban agriculture with social justice, yet there is a distinction between alleviating symptoms of injustice (such as disparate access to food or environmental amenities) and disrupting structures that underlie them. Despite
its positive impacts, urban agriculture systems may reinforce inequities that practitioners and supporters aim to address. This paper reports findings from a 2-year study of urban agriculture in New York City, which found race- and class-based disparities among practitioners citywide. Using the lens of critical race theory, it argues that a failure to examine urban agriculture’s role in either supporting or dismantling unjust structures may perpetuate an inequitable system. The paper concludes with recommendations for urban agriculture supporters and scholars to help advance social justice at structural levels.