The Challenges of Urban Agriculture: A Short Review of Save the Farm
Until 2006, the largest urban farm in the United States was the South Central Farm, located at the corner of East 41st and Alameda Streets in South Central Los Angeles. The land, which had been under cultivation since 1992, occupied some 14 acres on which some 350 families grew more than 150 different varieties of fruits, vegetables and medicinal herbs. The film “Save the Farm” highlights efforts to prevent the eventual sale of the land and destruction of the farm.
At just 30 minutes, the film provides an interesting—but very truncated—overview of the struggles of community and environmental activists to “Save the Farm.” While the farm itself was destroyed, the film points to a purchase of 7.8 acres of land at an alternative site in the Central Valley, which the city made available to former farmers at the South Central Farm. The film also notes that efforts to develop the land into a series of warehouses have been blocked by the farm’s supporters. While the farm itself was bulldozed in 2006, no construction has been launched on the site.
Implicit in the film is an outline of the challenges of informal urban agriculture around the world. While the farmers in the South Central Farm had received the permission of the city to grow on the vacant lot, their property rights were always contingent on the willingness of the city to continue that arrangement. When the city decided on an alternative use for the land, the farmers lacked any legal standing to protect their gardens.
In the developing world, where property rights are often even less fully developed, the ability of urban farmers to navigate the complex world of use rights and land tenancy is even more difficult. While “Save the Farm” was underwhelming in the depth of analysis, it did provide powerful insight into this fundamental challenge.
Watch the film’s trailer below or see the entire film and decide for yourself.