Megan Horst

Associate Professor

Megan A. Horst (PhD)’s research interests are in the relationship between food systems and planning, particularly focused on questions related to public policy & planning and food justice, sustainable food systems, farmland conservation, and access/ownership of resource lands. Her work has appeared in publications such as the Journal of the American Planning Association, Journal of Planning Theory and Practice, Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development and the Journal of Renewable Agriculture, and in books by the Planners’ Press and the University of Iowa.  

Megan received her doctoral degree in Urban Design and Planning Department at the University of Washington. In her dissertation, she examined how specific examples of planning in the Central Puget Sound region contribute to- or hinder- food systems transformation along the lines of food sovereignty. She focuses on qualitative methods, including observations, interviews and content analysis. 

Megan has a diverse work background. As a few examples, she has worked as a consultant for American Farmland Trust on GIS mapping, and for the community-based organization Solid Ground on children's food security issues, for the non-profit Sustainable Seattle on the Communities Count initiative, for King County Metro on community-based social marketing, as a park ranger at Lava Beds National Monument, and as a sustainable agriculture promoter/volunteer for Peace Corps in western Honduras.

Food systems planning, food justice, land use planning generally but especially that focuses on agricultural land/food systems/growth management, planning theory and practice

What Professor Horst has to say...

VISION FOR THE TOULAN SCHOOL: Planners and others around to the country look to Oregon- and to Portland especially- for innovative, forward-thinking planning ideas and PSU & the Toulan School play a big role in that. We also play a big role in deconstructing some of the myths of Portland as a sustainability paradise- and working to improve the reality. We are pretty unique in focusing on equity planning/planning for social justice- something I am constantly researching about, thinking about, and trying to promote through my teaching.  I am excited by Planning Oregon, which connects PSU researchers with practitioners and community members to examine the legacy of Oregon land use planning, including current issues and what is working and what is not, and will also try to identify shared values and deal with conflict.  I also love that the Toulan School is so committed to engaging students in the local community, and in complex, real-world problems. 

HOW I FIT INTO THAT VISION: I am particularly excited about the Toulan School’s and Portland State University’s focus on “knowledge serving the city” (though with a friendly amendment to also include areas outside the city!) I participate on Planning Oregon, and am conducting research alongside state and local partners on the tension between farmland conservation and rural residential growth in several Oregon counties. I am also working (with the support of graduate students) on a project to examine the changing ownership of Oregon’s agricultural lands, expected to be published in winter 2017/18. I am also active in the food movement scene generally in Portland and Oregon.

WHAT STUDENTS SHOULD TAKE AWAY: Today’s students live in very unique times, in the middle of an existential threat without precedent. Some scientists say that due to ecological devastation and climate change, the sixth mass extinction is already underway. On top of that, we face increasing economic disparity and ongoing injustices. We are also living in a time when our elected leaders and business leaders seem largely unwilling to change course. In facing this, students face a kind of pre-traumatic stress. At the Toulan School, I hope that students deal with that stress, by finding kindred spirits, developing knowledge, and building skills that will enable them to lead careers and lives of genuinely purposeful action. 

APPROACH TO TEACHING: Critical, participatory, engaged in real-world issues, and connected to the community as much as possible. Come to my classes prepared to challenge your preconceptions, collaborate with other classmates and community members, and to participate actively in various ways. I am also extremely committed to, and constantly learning and improving, anti-oppression class facilitation and pedagogy/curriculum/projects around anti-racism and in support of equity and diversity. 


Milwaukee: Lake Michigan and the public access to it, Summerfest and all of the street festivals, the cleaned up Milwaukee River and its pedestrian walkways and trails

Portland: East Bank esplanade, any of the neighborhood commercial areas, in a public park listening to free music.

Seattle: Pike Place Market and the many neighborhood farmers markets, Carkeek Park and other amazing parks, anywhere near or on the water, in a coffee shop on a rainy day

Groningen, the Netherlands and Odense, Denmark: on a bike path (both cities have high rates of bike ridership)

Really any city that I can wander for hours. Cities I have loved visiting include Buenos Aires Barcelona, Prague, Amsterdam, San Francisco, Washington DC, Miami, Quito… and many more.


Natures Metropolis, William Cronon

Cultivating Food Justice, Alkonm & Agyeman

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  • PhD in Urban Planning
    University of Washington