Creating New Urban Spaces of Sustainability and Governmentality: An Assessment of the Development of a Food and Urban Agriculture Strategy for Edmonton, Canada

Article by Lorelei Hanson & Deborah Schrader, Chapter 9 From Sustainable to Resilient Cities: Global Concerns and Urban Efforts - 2014

The purpose of this chapter is to explore the potential of urban agriculture (UA) as a tool for advancing urban sustainability. 

The chapter is based on participatory action case research focused on the development of an urban food policy in Edmonton, Canada from 2008 to 2013. Three data gathering techniques were employed: participant observation, semi-structured interviewing, and document analysis, and the data was analyzed using a grounded theory approach that including coding for themes and triangulation. We also draw on the work of critical sustainability scholars to outline the propensity for innovative work on local food initiatives to follow the same development path as many urban sustainability initiatives that foreclose political debate and reinforce the status quo.

The research data reveals that despite initial progressive changes in municipal policy, promising innovative food system planning, in the end Edmonton’s city council were largely driven by a development agenda.

In discussing both the successes and remaining challenges for Edmonton, this case study offers instructive lessons for many municipalities about key factors required for moving urban sustainability forward, specifically with respect to capitalizing on the innovative integrative functions of food for organizing communities and building capacity but also in moving beyond technocratic systems of management and planning to advance a paradigm shift toward building urban food security.