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History of Urban Gardening & Agriculture

History of Urban Gardening & Agriculture in the United States

COLUMBUS, OHIO, 1900–1940

Subsistence gardens were a significant land use in the Columbus, Ohio metropolitan area from 1900 to 1940. Their existence, however, was materially erased from the city and discursively erased from its history after that period. This paper investigates the processes of that erasure, particularly in the American Addition neighborhood of Columbus, concentrating on the articulation of an urban normative that made such land uses appear contrary to “modern” urban development. At the same time, the existence of such practices and landscapes in the city was explained away by a crisis narrative of the garden that helped to support the idea that such practices did not produce “normal” urban spaces. The simultaneous material and discursive colonization of subsistence gardens as “relief” measures during the Great Depression left these landscapes and areas dependent on the City of Columbus, under whose control they were transformed into more “appropriate” cityscapes.


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