Friday, September 23, 2011

When Worlds Collide (or maybe not): Urbanism and Agrarianism

I have spent the past 23 years serving as a planning consultant to Pennsylvania's Counties, smaller cities, Townships and Boroughs. As a professional planner, I have tried to help communities manage changes such as economic dislocation, urban blight, conserving small town character, revitalizing downtowns, or dealing with the impacts of new highways and development.

When not planning, I have put my time and treasure into the farm where I was raised. In 2009, thanks to the Internet, I was able to move my professional office to the farm, so my days are divided between farming and homesteading activities and writing and research.

Over the past few years, I have seen my private agrarian interests and community planning interests merging. Small towns I work for have been looking at changing ordinances to allow chicken keeping. One of the brightest young urban planners I know is reading John Seymour, raising chickens, and heating with wood--in a city neighborhood. Another colleague is helping his daughter establish a CSA farm in a suburb. One of the bleakest cities in Western Pennsylvania is trying to establish an urban farm on old industrial land. Perhaps the greatest indication of a growing interest in the relationship between food and communities have come from the leading new urbanist Andres Duany. Duany has come out hard for agrarian urbanism, and recently published a book on the topic.

Against this backdrop of agrarian interest is the specter of economic collapse. Urbanists like Jim Kunstler see Peak Oil as ending the American way of life that most people think of as normal. The Neosurvivalism of folks like Jim Rawles has become mainstream. With due respect to the two Jims (whose books share space on my shelves) I see another way; rebuilding local communities. Resilient, self supporting communities represent the best way to avoid any crisis short of the Apocalypse.

84 percent of American live in Urban Areas. I am something of an oxymoron; an urban planner who studies that 84 percent but who likes and actually knows how to milk a goat, skin a muskrat, castrate a bull calf, and run a tractor. With regards to agrarianism and urbanism, I believe I might have something to add to the conversation.


  1. Richard,

    I believe you have much to add to the conversation, and I look forward to reading your comments here on this new blog.

    Best wishes,

    Herrick Kimball

  2. It is good to see you here! I'm looking forward to your insights, as always!