Urban sustainability is most often measured using a series of social, economic, and ecological indicators. Assessment methods for urban sustainability typically factor in the ecological dimensions of greenspace, such as biodiversity maintenance, stormwater management, and/or air quality—yet indicator schemas that consider only the ecological dimensions largely overlook the social benefits of some types of urban greenspace, particularly community gardens and orchards. This article makes the case that the process of community formation and strengthening that occurs in shared growing spaces is an important element of urban sustainability in its own right. Based on 55 interviews of community garden advocates, policy-makers, and development professionals involved in urban agriculture planning, this article traces the widespread understanding among practitioners that shared growing spaces strengthen social as well as environmental sustainability, though the social benefits are often difficult to measure. The latter concern was most frequently expressed by urban agriculture advocates who, after involvement in the political process, perceived the need for such metrics in order to communicate persuasively with planners and policy makers. The social values of shared growing spaces, at once self-evident to garden advocates and difficult for them to demonstrate with quantitative data, may be theorized by drawing on insights from sociology: A truly sustainable city requires community coalescence among diverse citizens, and such community is fostered particularly well in shared growing spaces.
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