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'The Self-Provisioning City' is a history that has been missed in plain sight. In her talk, Kate Brown (Boston University) will reveal how urban farmers in cities around the world in the late 19th to the 21st century accomplished many of the goals of food sustainability reformers today.

Event details of The Self-Provisioning City in the Long 20th Century
Date 16 February 2023
Time 15:30 -16:30
Location Bushuis/Oost-Indisch Huis
Room E1.02

To name but a few self-provisioning cities among many; Paris circa 1900, 1920s Berlin and Washington, DC, socialist Tallinn in Estonia, 1990s Havana, 21st-century rustbelt Ohio. In these cities, mostly without government support, urban farmers produced local, diverse, organic food on marginal land with short market chains and few post-harvest food losses in a production cycle that resulted in affordable, fresh and nutritious food. Urban farmers did not expend fossil fuels in plowing, fertilizing, harvesting, packaging, and shipping food. They recycled nutrients and remediated contaminated earth, which in turn disrupted the metabolic rift that impoverished soils and fueled colonization elsewhere. 

We have missed this story in large part because it does not match historical narratives of cities progressively cut off from nature, and urbanites-as-consumers purchasing sustenance in increasingly complex, technological systems that span long distances. Yet the self-provisioning city reveals a landscape of tiny gardens that formed a connective tissue that bolstered working-class resilience and urban health. Urban farmers’ technologies produced ecologies and nutrients that engineered humans to be at the center of their environments, adapted to it, belonging.

Bushuis/Oost-Indisch Huis

Room E1.02

Kloveniersburgwal 48 (hoofdingang)
1012 CX Amsterdam