Community Service in Sustainable Agriculture

Students and faculty cover a raised garden bed with organic materials to prepare for spring planting.

As part of my community service at the university where I teach, I am a faculty advisor of the Center for Sustainability; The primary mission of the Center is to provide educational experiences for students and members of the local community in sustainability.  This year our focus has been on careers in sustainability and local sustainable agriculture.  

One of our projects has been to introduce sustainable agriculture practices on the campus and provide the food produced to an on-campus food bank for students in need.  In the photo above you can see we were preparing the soil for an organic vegetable garden that will be planted in the spring. We used permaculture methods of layering compost, cardboard, straw and wood mulch to enrich the soil. I shoveled a lot of compost!  In the spring we will plan the vegetables directly into this mixture, with no tilling.  Tilling disturbs the ecosystem within the soil by killing worms and destroying the mycorrhizae that enables plants to obtain nutrients. This permaculture technique was taught to the faculty and students by Ron Mello, who is an educator and farmer.  He runs an organization Terra Cura, which provides education and services to help people set up sustainable urban agriculture.  I am excited to find ways to incorporate sustainable agriculture concepts and experiences into some of the assignments in courses that I teach. The great thing about sustainable local agriculture on campus is that it provides opportunities for students to learn about the impacts of big agro-business upon the planetary ecosystem, social justice concepts as related to urban agriculture, and empowers students to beable to enact solutions to the climate crisis in daily life.

Serving in this way relates back to my artworks. As an artist, lifelong learning has always been an integral part of my creative influences and process.  I learned a no till method of enhancing the soil which I can use in my home vegetable garden.  I expect that the implementation of these methods will result in even more successful produce which will give me more opportunities to create beautiful artworks!