My research program focuses on social justice dynamics of urban food and environmental systems. Through my work, I link social scientific inquiry to on-the-ground initiatives to achieve food security, sustainability, and environmental justice. My approach is interdisciplinary; Drawing theoretical insights from human geography, political ecology, and international agricultural development, I examine the processes through which community-based activists proactively address food and environmental challenges and policies that support, or may hinder, such initiatives. I am interested in the roles of research and scholarship in advancing social justice at multiple social, political, and spatial scales.
For the past ten years my research has examined social justice dimensions of urban agriculture in the Global North. Urban agriculture is often understood as a way to advance food system- and environmental justice by providing benefits such as access to healthy food and green spaces. Yet, without attention to the social and political structures in which farms and gardens are situated, initiatives can effectively reinforce, rather than diminish, inequities. Understanding how urban agriculture can help shift social and political dynamics in cities, in addition to enhancing community food security and improving local environments, is key to creating socially just and resilient urban systems, and is a major goal of my research program.
Recent work has included research for my 2016 book Beyond the Kale: Urban Agriculture and Social Justice Activism in New York City (University of Georgia Press' Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation Series, with Nevin Cohen); and collaborative research for the Five Borough Farm Project of the Design Trust for Public Space. I regularly conduct participatory evaluation with community based groups including: Soul Fire Farm in Upstate New York; the environmental nonprofit Groundwork Hudson Valley; and Farm School NYC, a project of Just Food.
Current research examines policy changes surrounding, and finance for the emergent commercial agriculture sector in New York City and Paris; and a developing project looking at networks of heirloom grain producers and specialty bakers in cities in France.