Strategies for accessing land in cities

Lack of access to land is often raised as a barrier to participation in permaculture. Land ownership in North America — both rural and urban — is prohibitively expensive for many people but many permaculture practices are based on land ownership including the creation of perennial gardens, the growing of food forests, major earthworks such as berms and swales and the building of cob structures. In cities, where public land can be highly contested, the acquiring public or private land for communal projects often requires sustained activist campaigns that are grounded in an understanding of the complex connections between urban land and race, class, and gender. Land in the city tends to be very expensive and zoning rules mean that some practices may be forbidden in certain parts of the city (example: animals considered ‘livestock’).

Although access to land for urban agriculture projects can be an obstacle, people have found a variety of creative ways to overcome this barrier.

  1. Accessing public land

Cities contain a lot of public land — more so than in rural areas. Many community gardens are hosted on public — or publically accessible — land. Sometimes community gardens have rules or guidelines that restrict some permaculture techniques, for example, not allowing the planting of perennials or shrubs. You can approach this in a couple of ways, you can work with the city department or organization that oversees the garden to change the rules, or you can plant what you want and beg for forgiveness. Both approaches can work. If you plant what you want in your garden plot, I advise you to be mindful of your neighbours and not plant overly opportunistic plants such as comfrey or mint.

Read the rest at Permaculture Women magazine!

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