John C. Jones, MPA, PhD

Category: Uncategorized

New Articles

Happy to announce the open access publication of two new articles!

The first article (LINK) uses the imagery of acorn squash, a commonly seen vegetable in North American grocery stores and food pantry, to explain the cultural and socio-economic barriers that can often prevent hungry people from access nutritionally dense foods provided by food pantries (or other emergency food assistance programs). I first started talking about the “acorn squash problem” as a way to easily conceptualize these problems for my students. The idea was so well received that I collaborated with my two dietetics faculty friends to publish this commentary article.

The second article (LINK) is the first in a series of articles that carves up, and expands, aspects of my dissertation. This article is part of a long-term collaboration with my dear friend Dr Rachel Emas at Rutgers. In this article, we examine the perceptions of local government officials about local food system development in their regions (greater Dayton, OH and greater Newark, NJ). As part of this work, Rachel and I argue that our findings suggest the need for a “policy intrapreneur” to work within the public sphere towards the advancement of municipal or regional-scale food system development. In our next article, we will analyze which public agencies or governments are best equipped to host the policy intrapreneur.

New Article on Virtual Farmers’ Markets in Rural Ohio

I forgot to post this a while back when the article dropped, but you can follow this LINK to article in the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development.

In someways this article is already a little dated as the COVID epidemic has likely done more than anything else to push farmers’ markets towards virtual marketplaces than anything else I can imagine.

Educational and Profession Development Resources for Food Systems Practitioners

Back in 2012, I spent over a year investigating potential doctoral program that would allow me to conduct public policy research focusing on urban food system developed. At the time, I wished a database existed of the various food systems degree programs across the country. The Sustainable Food Systems Sourcebook now fills that need. Feel free to check it out!

Finding Space for Urban Agriculture

In recent months, I have come across a few popular media articles detailing disparate urban agriculture programs. What stood out to me in each of these articles is the combination of innovation in both a) the use of these emerging technologies in unusual spaces, and b) the use of technology to achieve production yields necessary for economic viability in those usual spaces. The spaces used for these production practices might be considered “found” or “created” spaces, as without recent innovations these spaces could not be used for food production (see Rivlin (2006) Found Space. in Franck and Stevens (2006) Loose Space: Possibility and diversity in urban life. for more details on found spaces).

The Township of Robbinsville, New Jersey purchased a Leafy Green Machine, a 340 square foot shipping container commercially converted into a hydroponic growing space. The township placed the container on municipally owned land, adjacent to the town’s senior center. Harvested vegetables supplement the senior center’s cafeteria and Meals on Wheels program. Under the mayor’s direction, the township hired a farm manager under the Parks Department to utilize the space. I randomly encountered the Robbinsville mayor back in 2018 and we discussed this space briefly. At the time, he indicated the growing operating was developing according to plan. Sadly, I never got the chance to conduct a site visit during my time in Jersey. (Article Link)

Urby, a residential development on the eastern side of Staten Island, maintains a 5000 square foot urban farm on its campus. A farm-in-residence actively farms the site. Produce is sold at the on-site bodega. Residents appear to have access to recreational spaces near the farm space, but cannot access space at the farm to grow for themselves. The article also indicates the presence of an on-campus beehive, but I did not see evidence in any picture. (Article Link)

Growing Underground is a 7000 square foot hydroponic growing operating roughly 100 feet below the surface of London in a former World War 2 air-raid shelter designed to accommodate 8000 people. According to the article, the farm grows a variety of vegetables, including: “pea shoots, rocket, red mustard, pink stem radish, garlic chives, fennel and coriander”. Growing Underground’s founder gave a TedTalk about this adaptation of space. (Article Link)

Square Roots, a hydroponic farming company that operates a farm composed of a number of converted shipping crates in Brooklyn recently partnered with Gordon Food Services (GFS) to develop a similar production site co-located at the GFS Headquarters in Wyoming, Michigan. Produce grow at the roughly two-acre facility is then added to the GFS produce distribution pipeline. This pilot partnership tests the potential to co-locate similar production sites adjacent to other GFS distribution facilities across the country. Given the challenges of distribution reported to me by surface-level urban farmers, this pilot program seems to have some potential to connect micro-scale, local production into broader distribution channels. (Article Link)

Finally, Studio NAB, an architecture firm, published designs for a six-story building that would be constructed over water. The structure’s design scheme would allow for the integrated use of a number of intensive food production techniques including, “open soil and soilless cropping techniques, seaweed, insects, fish from aquaponics, berries, honey from hives”. To my knowledge, a building similar to this has yet to be constructed, but the idea of placing such a structure on a body of water is another example of found space. (Article Link)

New Urban Agriculture Literature Collection at University of Toronto

Below is a press release for a collection of urban agriculture literature at the New College at the University of Toronto. I met Joe Nasr once in connection with my article in an upcoming special volume of Urban Design International that he is editing. He is very accommodating and I am sure would welcome messages from anyone interested in the literature available in this collection!

A Boost for Urban Agriculture and Food learning and Activism at the D. G. Ivey Library of New College, University of Toronto

The D. G. Ivey Library at New College, University of Toronto, has acquired a unique collection in the field of urban agriculture and food studies. The collection, made available through the generous donation of Joe Nasr, co-founder of the Urban Agriculture Network, comprises a wide range of materials focusing on urban agriculture, small-scale farming, food activism, and food-related policies around the world. It includes rare and difficult-to-find books, magazines, journals, personal papers, policy documents, and reports by governments and non-governmental organizations, most of them published between 1970 and 1999. The collection is named in honor (and includes papers and correspondence) of the late Jac Smit – an early advocate of urban agriculture – acquired while working around the world for agencies such as the International Rescue Committee and the United Nations Development Program (for more information about Jac Smit, please visit

The acquisition further solidifies the D. G. Ivey Library at New College as one of the eminent repositories in North America of materials on urban agriculture, a field currently experiencing a renaissance among scholars and practitioners alike. In addition to supporting the innovative work of varied global food equity programming at New College, including courses in its first-year transition program, NewONE, the D. G. Ivey Library also serves as a branch of the Toronto Seed Library. Entirely open to the public, the new Urban Ag and Food Collection should delight and inspire anyone interested in the “how” of food policy and the formation of community movements, both in historical perspective and as present-to-future endeavour. The collection is open to interested members of the university and urban agriculture community as well as the wider public. More information about the collection, as well as a listing of its contents can be found at

New Farm Bill would create Office of Urban Agriculture reports that the finalized version of 2018 Farm Bill will create an “Office Of Urban Agriculture And Innovative Production”. In short, within one year of President Trump signing the bill (which to my knowledge has yet to occur) this office will roll out pilot programs for ‘county and suburban’ county committees and community composting.
To my knowledge this the first major programming for urban agriculture in a Farm Bill since, I believe, the 1980s. I will post an update on this new office as I become aware of new information.

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