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Finding Chicago's food gardens with Google Earth
Date:1/3/2013

land to confirm that they were really producing food.

All the large sites and a sample of the small sites were digitized as shapefiles (digital vector storage formats for storing geometric location and associated attribute information) in Google Earth. These shapefiles were imported into Arc Map 10, a geographic information system (GIS) mapping tool, to calculate the total area.

The final estimate was 4,648 urban agriculture sites with a production area of 264,181 square meters. Residential gardens and single-plot gardens on vacant lots accounted for almost three-fourths of the total.

To map the gardens onto community areas, the shapefiles were joined with 2010 Census tract shapefiles and shapefiles of 77 community areas and neighborhoods from Chicago's GIS portal. The tract information was subsequently joined with the Census Bureau's 2005-2009 American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year estimates of demographic and housing characteristics.

The maps showed that garden concentration varied by neighborhood. "Chinatown, Bridgeport was kind of a hot spot," Taylor said. Both of these neighborhoods have large Chinese-origin populations. Even outside those areas, many of the larger gardens were associated with households headed by people of Chinese origin. Neighborhoods in the northwest with large numbers of Polish and Eastern and Southern European immigrants also had a high density of backyard gardens.

They were not all growing the same kind of food. "There are distinctions between these cultural groups because the crops they select are sometimes from their home areas in addition to the suite of crops we can all grow in our backyards," Lovell explained.

As people move across borders, they often bring seeds with them. "In a Mexican neighborhood where we were working, a lot of people grow a tropical corn that is 12 to 16 feet high," Taylor said. "It's grown not for the ears of corn but for the leaves, which are used to ma
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Contact: Susan Jongeneel
sjongene@illinois.edu
217-333-3291
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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