"Grow what you eat, eat what you grow": urban agriculture as middle class intervention in India



In Bengaluru, India's "IT Capital" and one of its fastest growing cities, an increasing number of middle class residents are growing fruits and vegetables in their private spaces for home consumption. This article examines the motivations and practices of Bengaluru's organic terrace gardeners ("OTGians") in order to understand the possibilities and limitations of urban gardening as a middle class intervention into unsafe food systems and decaying urban ecologies. OTGians are driven primarily by concerns about worsening food quality and safety, and secondarily by the desire to create green spaces that counteract environmental degradation in the city. Like community gardeners in the Global North, they understand urban gardening as a way to mediate problems in the contemporary food system and the urban ecology. However, like other alternative food and environmental movements, OTGians' efforts are anchored in class-specific concerns and experiences. While they have been successful in creating a vibrant community, their efforts remain limited to the middle class. This is in large part due to the site, scale, and production practices that anchor their interventions. I briefly consider a different approach to food production in Bengaluru—that of a caste-specific farming community that has been dispossessed of much of its agricultural land in the name of urban development—to illuminate divergent histories, narratives, and practices of urban agriculture. However, I also emphasize the sites of intersection between these narratives, and suggest that OTGians can find commonalities with other food producers in the city in ways that might revolutionize Bengaluru's food future. I thus look for potential sites of collaboration and intersection in understanding the uneven power relations and politics of urban socio-natures.

Keywords: Urban agriculture, gardening, food safety, urban development, urban environment, middle class, India

How to Cite: Frazier, C. (2018) “"Grow what you eat, eat what you grow": urban agriculture as middle class intervention in India”, Journal of Political Ecology. 25(1). doi: