The Relative Influence of Psycho-Social Factors on Urban Edible Gardening

By Lake, Barbara; Milfont, Taciano L. et al. | New Zealand Journal of Psychology, March 2012 | Go to article overview

The Relative Influence of Psycho-Social Factors on Urban Edible Gardening


Lake, Barbara, Milfont, Taciano L., Gavin, Michael C., New Zealand Journal of Psychology


Although agriculture typically occurs in rural areas, recent work recognises that urban agriculture may also contribute significantly to global food supply (Smit, Ratta, & Nasr, 1996). One global estimate asserted that urban agriculture produced 15% of total food supply, and involved over 800 million people, with 200 million producing food primarily for market (Smit et al., 1996). Indeed, previous studies have found that a substantial portion of the urban population participates in some form of urban agriculture. For example, 46% of respondents in Waterloo and 52% of Toronto residents grew food on their Canadian properties (Fisher, 2009; Kortright, 2007). Similarly, 30-40% of households in Victoria, Australia, and 23-33% of metropolitan households in Western Australia grew vegetables (Gaynor, 2005).

Mougeot (2000, p. 10) proposed one of the most quoted definitions of urban agriculture (Ambrose-Oji, 2009):

Urban agriculture is an industry located within (intraurban) or on the fringe (periurban) of a town, a city or a metropolis, which grows or raises, processes and distributes a diversity of food and non-food products, (re-) using largely human and material resources, products and services found in and around that urban area, and in turn supplying human and material resources, products and services largely to that area."

In this study, we focus on urban agriculture related to the activity of growing fruit, vegetables and/or herbs on urban residential properties. Following previous authors (e.g., Appleby, 2008; Foes-lamb, 2007; Chiang, 2005), we refer to this subset of urban agriculture as urban edible gardening (or just edible gardening). Others have labelled the same activity homegardening (Drescher, Holmer, & Iaquinta, 2006), house-lot gardening (Winklerprins, 2002), backyard gardening (Kortright, 2007), or kitchen gardening (Leach, 1982). We first provide a review of the key benefits of edible gardening. Given these benefits of urban edible gardening, we argue that understanding factors influencing rates of urban gardening is critical. In turn, our second objective is to review major factors noted in the literature and empirical evidence, or lack thereof, supporting the role these factors play in determining urban edible gardening. Finally, we present the first empirical study aimed at quantifying the relative influence of psycho-social factors on edible gardening.

Benefits of Edible Gardening

The extent to which edible gardening is beneficial or harmful depends on the behavioural context and gardening methods (Gomiero, Paoletti, & Pimentel, 2008), and some researchers make unsubstantiated claims about benefits of urban agriculture because they assume, rather than demonstrate, that required gardening methods will be used (Nugent, 2006). Nevertheless, the benefits of urban edible gardening can be summarised in four broad categories reviewed below. Our brief review considers both community gardens in urban areas and edible gardening done on private sections because the overall benefits are likely to affect both.

Environmental benefits

Several environmental benefits can result from urban edible gardening. Rural industrial agriculture has diminished soil quality by exporting nutrients to the city in the form of food (Girardet, 2005), which has led to increasing dependence on petroleum-based fertilizers (Nelson, 1996). Urban edible gardening, when it includes a composting component, provides an opportunity to recycle soil nutrients within the urban area, creating the potential to establish a sustainable urban metabolism (Gaynor, 2006).

Urban edible gardening can also contribute to biodiversity conservation and ecological health. For example, Boncodin, Prain and Campilan (2000) have shown that home gardens can play a role in the conservation of indigenous crops. Also, due to the intensive nature of urban agriculture, it often results in higher yields per unit area (Heimlich, 1988, cited in Heimlich & Bernard, 1993), leading Smit (2000) to argue that increasing urban production can reduce rates of rural land conversion to agriculture, thereby limiting impacts on rural biodiversity. …

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