Harvesting sketches from a community of gardeners.

Date of Award


Document Type



Caspersen School of Graduate Studies

Degree Name

Doctor of Letters


This dissertation creates a bridge between American cultural and horticultural discussions related to the topic of suburban community gardens, based on a new model called "A Lot to Grow." As an alternative to the conventional garden model that limits individual participation in local food production on municipal land, the A Lot to Grow model provides opportunities for greater numbers of participants to engage in organic garden practices, but also in the hands-on advocacy though a community based mission; to grow fresh vegetables and herbs for distribution to local soup kitchens and food pantries. As a result, this community garden model generates a wider range of public discussions about the economic, environmental, and social viability of American communities. The overarching topics of "suburban food insecurity" and "environmental greening initiatives" create a literary collage of related subjects that exemplify how the writing component of this garden model stimulates the ongoing production of new works of literature. This cultural intersection between community gardens and American Literature was inspired by the contributions of two Maine natives acknowledged through nineteenth century American cultural studies: Hazen S. Pingree, a Detroit Mayor and Progressive Republican politician, who is credited with the establishment of the first allotment gardens in the United States, and Sarah Orne Jewett, a Regionalist writer from Maine, who is a widely acclaimed author of "narratives of community." While this politician and writer approached the subject of "American community life" in different ways, their shared interest in this topic was influenced by their personal observations during the second wave of the Industrial Revolution's and three socio economic "Depressions" that took place during their lifetimes. This dissertation examines how the traditional values practiced by Jewett and Pingree are at risk of further erosion in the twenty first century, as American participation in a world economy, global environmental remediation, and the advancement of educational and career opportunities for women takes place. Given the challenges inherent in the sustainability of community based initiatives, this dissertation offers a time tested model that supports American community health and the viability of its cultural heritage through scholarly and imaginative texts.