Wise Food for Urbanite Thought

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October 27, 2012

Digging the City: An Urban Agriculture Manifesto
By Rhona McAdam.
Rocky Mountain Books, 168 pp., $16.95.

Reviewed by Susan Hawkins

Rapidly increasing urbanization is a global phenomenon that increasingly challenges human society. In Digging the City: An Urban Agriculture Manifesto, Rhona McAdam takes a critical step toward a new “urban agriculture manifesto” by placing the urban human/environmental interaction at the center of new attempts to deal with the current urban food dilemma. McAdam argues that the current “culture” of imported food has resulted in the decimation of the once thriving, sustainable, and local farming industry. This has resulted in the “majority of us having no idea what the ecological consequences of our food choices are.” To remedy this, McAdam calls for a “new food ethic,” the proliferation of small, sustainable, local, urban food producing gardens, and a return to the “virtuous cycle” of producing the food we eat.

Between tending her small Victoria garden and exchanging garden tips with her neighbourhood gardening collective, McAdam travels, researches, and writes on growing urban habitation and the current global food crisis. McAdam recounts her personal journey of discovery of the “good food” and “slow food” movement and her subsequent training in ‘Sustainable Local Food’ from St. Lawrence College. She reports on current food-safety issues, describing the historical sources and the issues around food production. As well, McAdam spotlights such new directions in the field as urban allotment gardens, edible landscaping, kitchen gardens, urban fish farms, meatless Mondays, and vertical farming, while providing an insightful analysis of the negative environmental consequences of the mega-agro industry.

Throughout, she is both thoughtful and informative, as evidenced in her final chapter, The Future of Urban Agriculture, in which she urges us to look beyond the immediate and envision “the future of food secure cities – and food production in general.”

You don’t need to be a “Guerrilla Gardener” to enjoy reading Digging the City. The book is appealing for its personal narrative, informative analysis, and for its contribution to the growing literature on the sustainable food movement that seeks to change the way we eat.

Susan Hawkins is completing her History in Art PhD and is a trained gardener

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