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Jesse Marshall ’11

38a_marshall_jesse.jpgJesse Marshall ’11, an honors political science major with minors in environmental studies and history, investigated urban agriculture and land-use policy in Philadelphia.

I’ve spend a lot of time working with urban agriculture and food access in the last few years, including managing the Good Food Project’s student garden and the composting program on campus and working with young people in community gardens and urban farms in Chester, Pa., and Oakland, Calif.

I wanted to explore how local governments can encourage urban agriculture as a way to tackle questions about environmental impact, food access and nutrition, and employment and economic development. The topics I covered during the summer were wide ranging, but I was especially interested in the role of planning processes and land-use decisions as they pertain to expanding the scale of food production in Philadelphia.

For eight weeks, I conducted interviews, attended community planning meetings, and did a lot of reading about urban agriculture and economic development. In my interviews with gardeners and farmers, academics, and city officials, I explored the possibilities and constraints associated with a comprehensive policy on urban agriculture for the city, including support and supply programs, issues of vacant land ownership and tenure, and economic viability.

My research experience was really valuable to me. I learned some hard lessons about structuring an independent project, but I also learned that there is a ton of innovation going on among individuals, nonprofits, and city departments in Philadelphia and around the country. I got a sense of what difficult and exciting times these are for local governments. The experience left me even more convinced that I want to pursue a career in urban planning and policy.

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