Community GroundWorks: Caring for Land and People through Ideas, Infrastructure, and Inspiration

Becoming an Environmental Educator

My parents thought I should pick a career.

I wanted work that didn’t feel like work.

I discovered the field of environmental education – jackpot!

“That’s not a career.”

Oops.

But before my parents could realize what was happening, I had taught kids in gardens in Berkeley, California, Moab, Utah, New York City, Connecticut, and finally, Madison, Wisconsin.

You know, year-round, full-time garden educators jobs are hard to come by. That’s one reason why I moved around so much.

I thought maybe some more education in food-production would help, so I started this Masters in Agroecology. I wanted to study environmental justice and the mechanics of food production.

I decided to use my final Agroecology project as a platform for exploring environmental education. My goal was to support good work in this field, and prime myself for work in environmental education. I had plenty of experience in teaching kids and adults in gardens.

I wanted to gain experience in education administration – starting, maintaining, and supporting educational programs.

Community GroundWorks

Since moving to Madison, I had my eye on Community GroundWorks.

Community GroundWorks grows food with people. They coordinate community gardens, and run garden education projects in Madison, Wisconsin, and around the state. Community GroundWorks focuses on children, families, neighborhoods, and municipalities. They play, teach, and they build networks of support that allow people from a rich array of socio-economic backgrounds to cultivate land and food together.

Community GroundWorks was born out of Troy Gardens.

This north Madison site was developed in 1995, when the city was selling fifteen acres of property slated for municipal and residential development. Instead, surrounding residents voiced a desire to keep the space open and available for recreation. They organized into a group called “Friends of Troy Gardens.”

A year later, the group’s call inspired the Madison Area Community Land Trust, the Urban Open Space Foundation, and the Community Action Coalition to purchase the land, as well as an additional sixteen acres. In 1998, a lease agreement was finally reached. In 2001, the 31 acres were purchased solely by Madison Area Community Land Trust, and placed under the management of Friends of Troy Gardens. At this point, the “Friends” incorporated into the non-profit Community GroundWorks.

Community GroundWorks now maintains this site for a variety of uses: a community supported agriculture (CSA) farm, a children’s educational garden, a co-housing development, a community garden, a restored forest, and an edible food forest.

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.

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