The field work was carried out in three locations within southern Arizona. Each has different characteristics: one is a rural community (Cascabel), the other is a peri-urban neighborhood (Flowing Wells) and the third is an urban neighborhood (Barrio Hollywood).
Barrio Hollywood was selected as a research site in the city of Tucson as a low-income neighborhood of almost 2,800 inhabitants with an average annual income of $25,667 compared to the median household income in Tucson of $37,000.
There are between 30-40 households in the neighborhood with solar panels on the rooftop, or that practice urban agriculture at their homes. In this neighborhood there’s also the best elementary school out of the whole Tucson area in regards to renewable energy and ecology programs.
The neighborhood was also selected because it is the only neighborhood with a community garden that is completely free for the gardener members. It uses renewable energy in the form of solar panels for pottery and art classes for the community, for workshops for children and adults on environmental issues and community activities such as environmentally themed movies as well as for the lighting of the area where livestock are kept. It is important to mention that this community garden is run by the non-profit organization Trees Please Arizona.
Animals from the Community Garden in Barrio Hollywood.
Currently, the garden has three solar panels; this energy is stored in a battery. The solar energy from the panels is used for power for the workshop and the movies.
The community garden is located on 0.25 acres of donated land with 20 plots and 30 gardeners. The activities and workshops are mainly used to obtain funds for their infrastructure, seeds and irrigation water for the free plots at the Community Garden.
Dunbar Springs, Arizona
Dunbar Spring is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Tucson and has a rich history. This neighborhood and many older neighborhoods suffered economic decline during the post-war period after 1945 when suburban development rapidly expanded Tucson. By the 1970’s and 1980’s, many houses were abandoned or in disrepair, crime rates had increased, and those with means chose to live elsewhere. Commercial development along the edges of the neighborhood began to erode the residential fabric of the community, replacing historic homes with commercial businesses. With the commitment and energy of an increasing number of newcomers combined with the historical wisdom and values of their long-term residents, Dunbar Spring has begun to turn itself around and is becoming once again a vibrant community.
This neighborhood is located near downtown in the city of Tucson, with a median income of 19.5K a year, and a population of 1,093 residents. Brad Lancaster is one of the members of the community that has been working on a more sustainable neighborhood, by installing water harvesting tanks in different parts of the community. Depending on the season, Lancaster gets 10 to 20 percent of his food from this sidewalk garden, and another in his yard, and also he’s trying to integrate a desert playground into the city with help of the Dunbar Spring Neighborhood Association.
The community garden from this area is making an effort to be more sustainable by collecting rain water and creating its own compost for future use and also educating the community members.
Houses near this community garden have solar panels, water harvest tanks and some houses have passive energy like the house in the picture, which is one of the newest additions to the neighborhood. As we can observe the design and orientation makes it more energy efficient.
Flowing Wells, Arizona
This area was selected in the peri-urban area of the city of Tucson as a low/median income area of almost 98,566 residents with an average annual household income of $32,100 compared the to median household income in Tucson of $37,000.
There is only one community garden in this area but the project is studying those with backyard gardens and solar panels.
The Flowing Wells neighborhood stands out for having the majority of its residential real estate made up of mobile homes. In fact, 60.5% of the occupied real estate here are mobile homes, which is a greater proportion than is found in 99.7% of the neighborhoods in the U.S.
According to data collected 41.8% of the children living in this area are below the federal poverty line. This neighborhood has a higher rate of childhood poverty than 84.8% of U.S. neighborhoods. In this peri-urban area, there is only one community garden. Schools here began to install solar panels in December 2017. One of the schools we visited and which is about to install the panels, has a garden, in which children plant different types of vegetables to sell on specific days of the month, with the objective of raising funds for the school and this type of project. The cost of the produce is cheaper than produce found in stores, so this type of activity helps low-income families and kids gain access to healthier foods; it also teaches children about the chain of food production and what it takes to get the food onto our tables. All of these projects started following the example of Manzo Elementary School, a school that went from almost being closed to one considered to be a role model within the Tucson Unified School
The Community of Cascabel in Cochise County, Arizona, home to nearly 75 residents, was selected for this study as a rural area located in a 20 mile radius of Red Horse II and III solar and wind farms. In Cascabel, there are no paved roads or traffic lights, no grocery stores or cell service. The residents of Cascabel are mainly retirees and some families; most support, as one woman interviewee said: “the community side of sustainability and conservation”. Some residents do not notice any effect of the Red Horse II and III wind and solar park but many oppose the transmission towers and lines and their effects on the tourism economy in the area and some also are opposed to the negative effects on bats and birds, including endangered species that have been worse than at other similar types of energy projects in other locations.
Residents are investing in solar energy as they believe natural resources for electricity should be closer to sites where the energy is going to be used.
Cascabel Community Garden
Many community members benefit from the Cascabel community garden as it is a valuable source for food. The garden is ⅗ of an acre and is communally-farmed compared to traditional individually-farmed plots.