Document Type



American Studies | Environmental Studies | Food Studies | Social History | United States History | Urban Studies and Planning


The scholarly and journalistic literature usually treats urban agriculture as a new phenomenon, but it is a neglected dimension of urban history. Some U.S. cities, at least in the Northeast, had food-raising and processing practices not just in colonial times but right up until the relatively recent past. Three areas of history are explored that have mostly omitted discussion of city food production but nonetheless provide important frameworks to explore such production: urban development, agricultural, and immigrant history. Woven throughout this piece is evidence from a study of Waterbury, Connecticut. Local food production did not die when the Industrial Revolution came to Waterbury. Farms and other food-producing, processing, and marketing operations remained and even adapted to the city's growing needs and resources. The city government both supported and undermined agriculture in ways that add to an understanding of urban history and are lessons for current urban agriculture policy.