Articulating and Negotiating Boundaries in Urban Farming Communites

In urban farming communities, enthusiasts adopt urban land and cooperatively develop the space with organic cultivations. This kind of gardening is guided by several ideals, which are part of the farmers’ motivation. However, gardening alone cannot meet the requirements for establishing a community in the city environment. The activities and ideals of the urban farms need to be negotiated and articulated to various stakeholders, including local establishments, other citizens, and city governments. Based on a three-year field study of urban community farms in three countries, we describe how the negotiation and articulation of the organizational, material, and ideological boundaries unfolded both internally and externally in these communities. In this paper, we provide concrete empirical examples of how such communities develop, what their challenges are, and how they can be supported by technology. We use the lens of civic engagement as a point of departure to situate urban farming and community technologies as a phenomenon. The main contributions of this paper are accounts of the kind of articulation work that volunteer-based civic engagement communities face and design qualities related to this boundary articulation. 

Citizen-led projects must articulate and communicate their ideas in ways that are perceived as relevant to various stakeholders. This boundary work is mediated through a variety of structures.

The physical transformation of an urban farm. Left: The space before an urban farm was founded. Middle: The space during the first summer. Right: The space five years after establishment.

There are many organizational layers in the studied urban farming communities. Online structures are related to each layer. More engaged individuals are invited to more closed working groups with more power. There is a border of less inclusion and less transparency between each organisational step.

Anton Poikolainen Rosen: @Anton_P_R