Tommy Bleasdale Ph.D. has published academic papers and popular articles about food justice movements and urban agriculture in Phoenix, Arizona. Working closely with practitioners over the last seven years, he has both observed and taken part in multiple aspects of local food system establishment, from gardening to policy creation.

Dr. Bleasdale is an active participant in many local food movements. He helps shape urban and just community-based food systems using the best information available. By fusing the knowledge of academia with the experience of practitioners he crafts material to meet the needs of a community.





I was a research assistant for two and half years for a National Science Foundation grant "Urban Vulnerability to Climate Change" (NSF Grant No. GEO-0816168-UVCC). The UVCC grant allowed me unparalleled access to scholars who think about heat and human vulnerability to heat stress. I became particularly sensitized to local climate issues, such as urban heat island in Phoenix.

I have been examining those challenges in relation to urban agriculture and social justice. My pilot study of a community garden program in south Phoenix empirically showed that many residents gave up gardening in Phoenix's intense summer heat. Further, summer abandonment of gardens is common across the country. My experience of working in my personal gardens in the summer had taught me that warm season crops do quite well in the Phoenix summer. Squash grows inches of new vines a day if they had enough water. In fact, the metabolism or warm season crops speed up the hotter it gets. But, people struggle at the same high temperatures.

Further complicating the issue is that gardens and plants cool the environment immediately surrounding them. I began to think about cooling urban microclimates through urban agriculture. In Phoenix, climatologists have shown that farm fields can cool a microclimate (the area immediately around the field) by as much as 5 degrees Celsius. Phoenix also makes an interesting test case for urban agriculture in possible future climate change scenarios.

Below is a brief example of one of the outcomes of this research:

  • Gardens of the future: Community gardening as a local adaptation to climate change.[pdf]

    Poster presentation at the Adaptation Futures: 2012 International Conference on Climate Adaptation. Summer 2012.
    Poster Presentation PDF

  • Community Gardening in Disadvantaged Neighborhoods in Phoenix, Arizona: Aligning Programs with Perceptions.[pdf]

    Research paper and findings published about my pilot study of community gardens. This included data about gardener drop out due to summer heat: Bleasdale, T., C. Crouch, and S. L. Harlan. (2011). Community Gardening in Disadvantaged Neighborhoods in Phoenix, Arizona: Aligning Programs with Perceptions. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 1(3).
    Article Abstract PDF