The Current Role of Land Use Planning in Food Policy Councils

by Liia Koiv-Haus, Associate ASLA

Farm field
Photo by Mike Cassidy on Unsplash

Food policy councils (FPCs), fresh food alliances, food and farm networks, food coalitions—there are dozens of types of food-related groups that shape food policy nationwide. Most have one thing in common: they are diverse groups of stakeholders with goals related to improving food access and nutrition. Because food policy is such a complex, interdisciplinary field, oftentimes one sector or one level of government alone cannot tackle issues like hunger, obesity, and food safety. It takes a concerted effort by federal, state, and local governments, businesses, nonprofits, and passionate community members to keep our food system running smoothly and adapting to changes like a pandemic.

The biggest federal piece of food legislation is the farm bill, which has its origins in the Great Depression era. New machinery during WWI had boosted food production drastically. American farmers initially benefited by simply exporting their surpluses to Europe, but by the late 1920s, Europe had recovered its production and US farmers were still overproducing. The federal government stepped in and began to pay landowners directly with checks to reduce output.

The federal government provided similar relief a few years ago when tariffs on exports caused farmers to overproduce (China stopped buying commodities like soybeans). Then, in the early months of the 2020 pandemic, large amounts of food were being thrown out again, but this time neither due to overproduction nor lack of demand. Instead, food was being discarded because farmers were unable to sell their output due to the closing of restaurants, schools, and hotels (New York Times). The established supply chains were too rigid and could not adapt quickly enough to increased demand at grocery stores and food pantries. With two rounds of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program as well as the more recent December 2020 relief package, government payments to farmers added up to nearly $46.5 billion in 2020 (including farm bill subsidies).

While this money provided immediate relief to farmers, it didn’t magically revive or restructure our food system. That happened as the result of the community-based response from business owners, nonprofits, local governments, and other players. The federal government’s authority is limited to regulating food that travels in interstate commerce; states and municipalities have more authority regulating restaurants, food retail establishments, and other food businesses. Local governments and health agencies shaped their own regulations to adapt the food service industry to the pandemic: temporary patio permits, sidewalks extended into vehicular lanes, to-go alcohol containers, etc.

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Reviving the Hill, One of the Oldest Residential Neighborhoods in the Steel City

by Udday Shankur Datta, Student ASLA

Aerial perspective. The project explores the opportunities to connect the Hill District with downtown Pittsburgh to restore the once vibrant neighborhood that was uprooted and forced to move due to urban redevelopment projects. / image: Udday Shankur Datta

This post is based on a class project for the fall 2019 course “Land Development Principles” at West Virginia University; it received the third place prize (course project category: landscape architecture) at the 11th Yuanye Award International Competition. The story of Pittsburgh’s Hill District and the struggles of the people living there have mostly remained untold. Through my design, I want to give them a voice and raise awareness about the existing problems of this historic African-American neighborhood.

Click here to view project graphics at a larger scale.

The Hill District is one of Pittsburgh’s oldest residential neighborhoods. It is a significant African-American neighborhood in the country, famous for its contributions to music (jazz in particular), literature, and sports. During the late 1950s, the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh declared the historic Lower Hill blighted and cleared 95 acres of the Hill District neighborhood as part of Pittsburgh’s urban renewal efforts. An entire neighborhood of the lower Hill District was uprooted and forced to move. The remaining Hill District is still cut off from the downtown by enormous expanses of parking lots and an old highway.

The primary goal of this project is to connect the Hill District to the surrounding areas. To align with the target of making Pittsburgh a biophilic city, an urban food forest and community parks are proposed to create a green network. The project addresses the existing problems faced by the people living in the Hill District and proposes an integrated planning and design strategy that includes housing proposals, improved transportation networks, and street design to revive this once-thriving neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

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Drawing the Green New Deal and Humanizing the Design Process

by Dr. Carl A. Smith, FRSA, FRGS, CMLI, Int. ASLA

Student poster for a Green New Deal for the Ozark mountains, fall 2020 (detail). / image: courtesy of Jessica Shearman, Student ASLA

Landscape architecture students and faculty across the country, and further afield, are currently tackling the important task of putting together tangible proposals according to the tenets of the Green New Deal resolution (GND). The resolution, published by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey around two years ago, sets forth an economic stimulus and mobilization framework for decarbonization and social equity. This forms the central charge for the Green New Deal Superstudio launched last summer under the joint auspices of ASLA, the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture, the Landscape Architecture Foundation, the Center for Resilient Cities and Landscapes (at Columbia University), and the McHarg Center for Urbanism and Ecology (at the University of Pennsylvania).

Of course, design studios are quite different from practice work, even if projects—as encouraged by the Superstudio brief, for instance—occur in collaboration with practitioners. Studio allows time and space to experiment with technique, ideas, and representation, while drawing on the field’s shared vocabulary of written and built works. It is one particular challenge in my own GND Superstudio that I want to briefly focus upon here: the practice of drawing sites as a way of understanding landscape in addition to the more normative methods of site evaluation, data collection, and speculation. This discussion might have broader currency for other educators and practitioners involved in progressive projects, but may also have wider poignancy as we all contemplate reconnecting with our somewhat estranged landscapes in the time of COVID.

As a little background, I offer these brief comparative remarks about the Roosevelt administration’s New Deal of the 1930s; after all, the very name of the new GND resolution invites such comparisons. The original New Deal was the roll-out of dozens of programs over a relatively short amount of time, addressing the devastation of the Great Depression and leaving a notable legacy of building, conservation, and infrastructural works. Likewise, the Green New Deal looks to stimulate an ailing economy, while weaving together social and environmental objectives with broad implications. However, unlike its eponym, the GND—still in its infancy as a political project—is yet to emerge with a strong visual language and consistent graphic messaging to help translate broad rhetoric into local, relatable action. While still in the earliest phases of its formulation, the Green New Deal has merely offered nostalgic imitations of bold New Deal imagery.

Of course, properly considered, nostalgia—with its strong associations with place and home—could yet prove a persuasive graphic strategy for communicating and winning local favor for a Green New Deal, just as regionally distinct forms and traditions could inform the design and planning approaches to landscapes of decarbonization.

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Call for Public Comments on U.S. Nominations to the World Heritage List

Serpent Mound, Ohio / image: Katherine Bowman licensed under CC BY 2.0

While last month saw the announcement of new additions to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists—which included an impressive array of knowledge, practices, and traditions, from a centuries-old irrigation network in the United Arab Emirates to the tree beekeeping culture of Poland and Belarus—this month, the opportunity to submit public comments on U.S. nominations to the World Heritage List closes January 26, 2021.

The properties currently proposed for the U.S. World Heritage Tentative List include: Serpent Mound in Ohio, Central Park in New York, and Civil Rights Movement Sites in Alabama among the cultural sites, and Big Bend National Park in Texas, multiple sites in Central California, and White Sands National Monument in New Mexico among the natural sites.

See the Federal Register for the full list and additional information.

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The 2021 HALS Challenge: Historic Black Landscapes

by Chris Stevens, ASLA

Anne Spencer Garden, HALS VA-59, Lynchburg, Virginia. / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

For the 12th annual HALS Challenge, the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) invites you to document historic Black landscapes. Black people have built and shaped the American landscape in immeasurable ways. Examining these histories and spaces will expand our understanding of America’s past and future. From plantations to segregated cities, the nation’s landscapes retain the physical manifestations of our racist history. Yet historic Black landscapes also represent creative achievements and reflect Black culture, as seen in residential gardens, parks, and college campuses across this country. Documenting historic Black landscapes will reveal patterns of community that have been built over the course of four hundred years.

Some useful and inspiring resources:

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New Opportunities Abound

Opportunities and RFQs

With the new year just begun, now is the time to explore opportunities and events coming up in 2021. While you may already be familiar with ASLA’s current open calls—for honors nominations (due February 5), presentations for the 2021 Conference on Landscape Architecture (due February 24), and Council of Fellows nominations (due February 1)—all are welcome to find even more offerings from allied organizations and others through ASLA’s RFQs and Opportunities page.

Below, we highlight a sampling of the business opportunities, design competitions, and events listed currently. And, anyone looking to share an opportunity with landscape architects may do so at any time through the online submission form.

Grants

National Park Service Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program
Deadline: March 1, 2021

Requests for Qualifications

Landscape Architect/Designer for Wangari Gardens and Park Enhancement Project
Deadline: January 29, 2021

Dorothea Dix Park Rocky Branch Enhancement Project
Deadline: February 12, 2021

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Shape the Future: Submit for ASLA 2021

Cumberland Park, Nashville, Tennessee / image: Hargreaves Jones

ASLA 2021 Call for Presentations
Deadline: Wednesday, February 24, 2021, 11:59 p.m. PT

The Call for Presentations for the 2021 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture in Nashville is now open. We are looking for education proposals that will help drive change in landscape architecture and provide solutions to everyday challenges that are informed by practice and research.

Help us shape the 2021 education program by submitting a proposal through our online system by Wednesday, February 24, 2021.

The 2021 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture is scheduled to take place in November in Nashville, Tennessee. Of course, we don’t know what will happen with the COVID-19 pandemic by then—and ASLA will be monitoring the situation carefully as we plan a conference that is safe for everyone. But there’s one thing we do know—whatever form our conference takes this year, we will not compromise our standards for delivering the high-quality, well-rounded educational experience that everyone has come to expect. Your submissions make that possible.

All education session proposals are reviewed by the Annual Conference Education Advisory Committee. Sessions will be organized into topics most relevant to the practice of landscape architecture and cross-sector collaborations. Please visit the submission site to learn more about the 2021 education tracks, submission criteria, review process, and key dates.

If you’re an ASLA member, make sure you have your unique ASLA Member ID or username handy—you should use it to log into the submission system.

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An Invitation

image: Grace ‘n’ Chase Photography

The Children’s Outdoor Environments Professional Practice Network (PPN) is very pleased to share this blog post about the concept of inclusion and its connection with landscape architecture. A giant thank you to Natalie Mackay, Executive Director of Unlimited Play, for contributing this thought provoking and deeply compelling article. We invite you all to share your thoughts and ideas on this important topic.
– Amy Wagenfeld, PhD, OTR/L, SCEM, EDAC, FAOTA, Affil. ASLA

June 21, 2000. I received the invitation. No one else I had known or knew at that time received this invitation—just me. Membership in this ‘group’ required countless sleepless nights, endless appointments, and patience as I learned a new language. Tired and heartbroken, I found the determination to move forward in hopes of creating something better out of this life-changing circumstance.

My invitation to join the special needs community arrived the day my son Zachary was born and diagnosed with Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease. Now, 20 years later, this disease has taken almost everything from Zach, except for his love for life and community. Throughout the last 20 years, I have learned that each one of you has more than likely received, or will receive, a similar invitation. Through family members, close friends, or serendipitous circumstances, you have also been invited to join this close community.

Unlimited Play is a nonprofit I founded in 2003 that is focused on the need to build inclusive playgrounds. More than simply giving children the chance to play was my germ of an idea of building a community focused on inclusion. I dreamed of a place where children would not just see a little boy in a wheelchair, but a new friend. I like to imagine that children who play on the playgrounds we have built grow up to become landscape architects with memories of friendships developed on a playground designed for all children, regardless of situation or circumstance. Those early friendships formed on the playground (that proverbial ‘sandbox’) then become the professional inspiration behind using inclusion as the foundation of each design, no matter what it is, because inclusion is everything and everyone.

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