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My project this summer is working with the Smart Home to revitalize our community garden and make it a more sustainable and community-focused space. In recent years it has gone under-utilized and many past projects, like our solar greenhouse and composting system, have fallen victim to the passage of time. In addition to mending past projects, I will be creating workshops, a website or blog, implementing new green technology, and changing our administrative systems.  I hope to rejuvenate the space and bring in more folks and organizations outside of the Duke community to make the garden productive, sustainable, and community oriented.

After learning about our agricultural system and the disparities that exist within it, I have been encouraged and inspired by the incredible groups and individuals that have created the community garden movement. Community gardens and the de-centralization of agriculture are critical to mitigating food insecurity, making agriculture more sustainable, and ensuring that people have access to safe and healthy food. While I might not make a dent in any of these issues, it feels valuable to contribute to this movement and share the education and resources that have been made available to me. As such, I hope to partner with other Durham community gardens and donate much of the produce grown to local groups that distribute fresh food.

Gardening and working with plants are things that I truly love, but this project was not my original plan. I was intending to go on the Costa Rica program to study water resources and reforestation. This program highlighted something that I have learned over and over again as an environmental policy student: agriculture is tied to almost every environmental issue. The major historical reason for deforestation in Costa Rica is to provide additional land for cattle ranching. In fact, 40% of all the land on earth is currently being used for agriculture.

The way we eat and farm has a huge impact on the environment- when we buy groceries, we should be more concerned about what is in the bag than what it is made of. Buying all organic, sustainably-made produce at a premium price is not an option for the majority of people, so it is important to provide other options. Unlike conventional monoculture farming, community farms and urban gardens can provide healthy produce that is good for the planet and people but without the associated price tag. It also empowers people who might be food insecure or live in a food desert to take control of their own health.

Our garden will probably only provide food for a handful of families, but I hope that we can help disseminate knowledge through workshops and outreach events to encourage others to explore how they can grow food. Durham already has several thriving gardens, and I hope that we can become a valuable member of that network and a good neighbor to the surrounding community.