In September of 2015, I moved to Madison, Wisconsin to pursue a Masters in Agroecology. Between September 2016 and August 2017, I conducted a series of collaborative projects with Community GroundWorks. This Madison non-profit runs Troy Land and Gardens, which hosts community garden plots, an organic farm, a restored woodland and prairie, and a children’s garden.
Please read on to learn more about my Agroecological portfolio of projects with Community GroundWorks.
I pursued Agroecology to build strong food systems nurtured by networks of information and support between food-producers, educators, and communities.
The Agroecology program offered me a unique opportunity to learn more about growing food. But I did not just want to learn how to grow food. Agroecology studies food systems – the infinite social and material realities that impact agriculture, and that agriculture impacts.
Why Community GroundWorks
The Agroecology program requires its “Public Practice” students to carry out a project that supports equitable agriculture. I decided to use my final Agroecology project as a platform for exploring environmental education.
I had plenty of experience in teaching kids and adults in gardens. I wanted dive deeper, and gain experience in education administration – starting, maintaining, and supporting educational programs. I am so grateful to Community GroundWorks for offering opportunities to support their work through a diverse set of projects, that stretch my unique set of skills.
Read about our Projects!
Together, we conducted the following projects:
- Business Plan for New Day Camp: I collaborated with the Education Director Ginny Hughs to launch a new Community GroundWorks day camp, by working together to construct a business plan.
- Songbook, Manual, and Training for Songful Garden Education: I channeled my years of experience as an environmental educator and performing artist to develop a manual, songbook, and training to show educators how, and why, to sing with their students.
- (Agro)Ecological Restoration Plan: I worked with Community Lands and Gardens Director Shelly Strom, and a team of Agroecologists, to analyze ecological degradation at Troy Gardens, and offer recommendations for addressing these issues.
- Farm to School Newsletter: Under the direction of Farm to School Director Beth Hanna, I revived a bi-monthly state-wide Farm to School e-newsletter, connecting thousands of gardeners, administrators, and educators to material and educational resources.
How do a Business Plan, a Newsletter, an Ecological Restoration Plan, and a Songbook fit together?
Following the Leader: I pursued Agroecology because I wanted to follow the lead of folks outside of academia who were fighting for fair food systems. I admired Community GroundWorks, and asked them what they needed. Their response led to these projects. They, in turn, follow the lead of their community – neighbors, visitors, gardeners…
Inspiration and Energy as Agroecological Resources: Some work is draining, but some work energizes you back, the more you put in. These projects came to life through individual voices and community engagement. I am excited to stretch the bounds of Agroecology by including in its toolbox: Laughter. Song. Courage. Vulnerability. Collaboration. Emotional Nourishment. I call this series of projects Anatomy of An Urban Farm, because it illuminates the “body parts” that an urban farm uses to inspire, educate, and nourish its leaders and beneficiaries. I wanted a range of experiences in shaping garden education, to prepare myself for a variety of roles and projects in the future. So I went in a bit blind. But I was ready to shape projects would stretch my skills and captivate my interest. Projects that needed my unique experiences and insights, my creative approach to relationship-building and problem solving.
Embracing Uncertainty: Being wrong is inevitable. These projects show that when we courageously face the uncertainty of our own voices and our relationships, we can learn what we are working with.
Sustainability as Revisitation:In these projects, caring for land and people was not about “getting it right,” but about constant and communal re-engagement and revisitation.
Building Infrastructure for Personal and Collective Engagement: Each project grows material, social, and intellectual infrastructure for deep, broad, and equitable engagement, whether it’s a educational programming and funds, a mutually supportive Farm to School network, ecological restoration that follows the needs of urban farm beneficiaries, or uniting group singing with the work of nourishing people and planet.