Author ORCID Identifier

Date of Award

Spring 5-2-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Management and Policy


The U.S. has a long and sordid history of racialized oppression, and the implications of this history are reflected in the persistence of racially and spatially segregated urban poverty. Low-income, predominately Black and brown neighborhoods are consistently lacking in the resources needed for families and communities to thrive due to policymaking decisions that undergird uneven development and resource extraction. Urban farms and gardens, present a unique opportunity to address many of the challenges facing these communities; however, depending on the characteristics of these agriculture projects, specifically the racial identity of the leadership and the project’s objectives, urban agriculture can also pose a major threat to marginalized communities by catalyzing exclusive gentrification. This study examines these dynamics through Black-led urban farms in high poverty neighborhoods.

Using a comparative case study analysis of three distinct cities— Portland, Oregon, Atlanta, Georgia, and Detroit, Michigan— I examine why segregation over the 20th century has persisted and how it continues to reinforce concentrated poverty among Black and brown populations. In the second study (Chapter 3), I use qualitative methods to identify the shared characteristics of Black-led farms that make them particularly well-suited to address the unique challenges of these communities. The third study (Chapter 4) uses a national survey of urban farm leadership and factor analysis to measure transformative local impact through urban agriculture. Through this three-paper study, I contribute theoretical frameworks and findings about the racial logics guiding policymaking decisions that reinforce

segregation; the nature and key societal functions of this pervasive institution; the shared characteristics of Black-led farms that distinguish them and their impact in racially and economically marginalized communities; and I introduce structural (re)engineering as a preliminary measurement model to understand how Black-led urban agriculture produces multi-faceted social impact. I provide a list of policy recommendations for institutional actors that wish to support the work of Black-led and racial equity-oriented urban farms to created transformative local impact in high poverty neighborhoods.