Gardening at the Margins

Convivial Labor, Community, and Resistance

Gabriel R. Valle (Author)
Hardcover ($60.00), Ebook ($60.00) Buy
Gardening at the Margins tells the remarkable story of a diverse group of neighbors working together to grow food and community in the Santa Clara Valley in California. Based on four years of deeply engaged ethnographic field research via a Participatory Action Research project with the people and ecosystems of La Mesa Verde home garden program, Gabriel R. Valle develops a theory of convivial labor to describe how the acts of care among the diverse gardeners—through growing, preparing, and eating food in one of the most income unequal places in the country—are powerful, complex acts of resistance.

Participants in La Mesa Verde home garden program engage in the practices of growing and sharing food to envision and continuously work to enact alternative food systems that connect people to their food and communities. They are building on ancestral knowledge, as well as learning new forms of farming, gardening, and healing through convivial acts of sharing.

The individuals featured in the book are imagining and building alternative worlds and futures amid the very real challenges they embody and endure. Climate change, for example, is forcing thousands of migrants to urban areas, which means recent immigrants’ traditional environmental, nutritional, and healing knowledge will continue to be threatened by the pervasiveness of modernity and the homogenization of global capitalism. Moreover, once rural people migrate to urban areas, their ability to retain traditional foodways will remain difficult without spaces of autonomy. The stories in this book reveal how people create the physical space to grow food and the political space to enact autonomy to revive and restore agroecological knowledge needed for an uncertain future.

“Beyond being a beautifully written ethnographic account of a culturally and biologically diverse community in the Santa Clara Valley growing food, embodying relationships with land and neighbors, and healing urban landscapes and bodies harmed by racial capitalism, Gardening at the Margins is also a survival guide. The stories of the gardeners provide a blueprint for surviving and resisting in impossible circumstances through multiple generations’ worth of agroecological knowledge.” —Dvera I. Saxton, author of The Devil’s Fruit: Farmworkers, Health, and Environmental Justice

“I recommend this book for students and junior researchers who want to collect ethnoecological and ethnobotanical information. It provides a method for interacting with participants and emphasizes the importance of sharing and being grateful for their knowledge. The significance is highlighted of home gardens that survive due to the memory of migrants and the practice of traditional knowledge.” —Juan Pablo Rodriguez Calle, Economic Botany

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