Actors and networks in urban community garden development

Abstract: Community gardens play a significant role in challenging neoliberal inequities by serving as spaces of alternative food production and community development activities in marginalized neighbourhoods. While past research has explored the production of place in community gardens, less attention is paid to the role of social networks in garden development. Yet, network formation is critical for grassroots groups to navigate neoliberal governance and politics of power.

This article draws on social network theories to examine the process of urban community garden development set within the context of neo-liberalization. These theories provide a useful framework for evaluating networking as a spatial strategy and conceptualizing power relations within networks. We contend that forming spaces of engagement through scaled networks constituted by strong and weak ties is an essential means by which actors obtain information and leverage resources necessary to build and maintain urban community gardens. However, we also find that these networks contain power hierarchies that shape the conditions for participation in the networks. Actors with fewer resources and lesser political clout are compelled to conform to the interests of powerful actors. In employing social network theories to analyze urban community garden formation, this paper aims to achieve greater theorization and understanding of the complexities embedded in community garden development.

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