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Life Arts    H3'ed 6/16/09

Urban Agriculture as a Career Path

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The Warrior Demo Garden (named after the university’s mascot) provides fresh produce for the campus cafeterias as well as the city’s food assistance programs.

Students volunteer to maintain the garden on Wednesdays (5 to 6 p.m.) and Saturday mornings (10 to 11 a.m.). They use the garden as a means of informing and recruiting curious passersby about SEED Wayne’s programs and principles.

“SEED Wayne is really accepting of anyone who wants it,” said Stonehill. “It’s not an exclusive club.”

Moreover, gardening for Stonehill has become a way of getting dirty, being outside and watching vegetables grow—quite a satisfying combination of activities to complement a busy academic and work schedule.

“It’s also a nice problem solving exercise where I learn not to be frustrated that the tomatoes are not as big as I want them or that I find bugs on the squash plants,” she said. “And knowing how to eat and learning how to grow your own food allows you to cut your food costs.”

Will Ahee, 20, also began gardening at Earthworks when he was a student at U of D-Jesuit. He is now a junior in environmental science and Pothukuchi’s assistant in charge of SEED Wayne.

“Urban students who feel cut off from nature are finding that food has become a vehicle to re-connect with it,” he said. “Gardens allow people to serve but they also help people share their knowledge and connect with others.”

One of the unique aspects of SEED Wayne, especially pertinent to a city like Detroit, is its social justice mission. Detroit has the distinction of being the nation’s poorest big city where nearly 33 percent of the residents live below the federal poverty line, according to the U.S. Census Bureau (2004).

“Healthy food needs to be available to all people, said Ahee. “It is a fundamental right,”

Ahee said he could have gone to Michigan State University to learn sustainable agriculture practices, but he was attracted to Detroit where there is so much economic struggle and not much access to healthy food.

“I knew I wanted to give service,” said Ahee, “but I also wanted something that would have lasting change. Helping someone learn how to grow food does it for me.”

WSU students are emblematic of today’s growing national trend where young people are looking for ways to make a difference in their world. While their parents were more interested in political movements, this generation is more interested in personal action where individuals can get involved in doing something.

The future of the environment is college students’ particular concern and SEED Wayne is helping to provide its students with opportunities to learn about and experiment with sustainable food production.

 This article appeared in Energy Bulletin, June 15, 2009.

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Olga Bonfiglio is a Huffington Post contributor and author of Heroes of a Different Stripe: How One Town Responded to the War in Iraq. She has written for several magazines and newspapers on the subjects of food, social justice and religion. She (more...)
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