The Gillings Sustainable Agriculture Project: A Gillings Innovative Laboratory


EXCITING SERVICE-LEARNING VENTURES AT CAROLINA CAMPUS COMMUNITY GARDEN AND FARMER FOODSHARE FOR NUTR 245 STUDENTS

This spring, Nutrition 245 students Carolyn Tidwell and Katie Fesler have been getting involved in local food endeavors at their community placements. Currently, Tidwell volunteers at Carolina Campus Community Garden (CCCG) while Fesler volunteers at Farmer Foodshare. Each week, Tidwell, Fesler and their classmates reflect on their service and progress made at their community partners.

Tidwell stated, “Working with the Garden over the past couple of weeks has been wonderful. The more time I spend there, the more I love the distributions and gardening in general.” CCCG welcomes all UNC staff, faculty, students and community members to grow vegetable and fruit for UNC’s lower wage workers.

While Tidwell observes that the food distributions at the garden are a simple process and do not take long, she appreciates the opportunity it gives her to interact with the garden volunteers and UNC workers.

A volunteer at one distribution described how the workers will all bring food to meals and share amongst themselves, stated Tidwell. It appears to her that there is no sense of possession but instead a real sense of community that the CCCG has brought together.

“By the community garden providing this service to the UNC workers, it is sharing the abundance of the land and allowing them to lead a more healthy lifestyle through nutritious food products,” noted Tidwell.

Tidwell’s community placement at the CCCG has led to her examine the current food system more closely. She states she will continue ask questions focusing on food disparities while working at the Garden.

According to Fesler, she got right back into the groove of things at Farmer Foodshare after her weeklong spring break. Last week, Fesler met with her advisor and community placement group. They discussed the findings of their research focusing on price variation for products amongst different vendors including farmers’ markets and grocery stores.

Currently Fesler works on a project to help determine and expand “the ideal buyer” for the Pennies on the Pound (POP) Food Markets. This program is a pilot social enterprise developed by Farmer Foodshare. According to the nonprofit, it is designed to connect farmers with limited resources who have discounted excess food for sale with low wealth customer and agencies that increase community food security.

“I’m not entirely sure what the project is going to look like, but I’m taking it step by step and seeing where it leads me. It’s exciting to be a part of a venture that’s just getting off the ground,” stated Fesler.

Fesler and Tidwell, along with the rest of the Nutrition 245 class, will be volunteering at their community placements for the remaining five weeks of the semester – meaning much time left for even more service-learning opportunities. 


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Students Share Their Initial Thoughts on Their Service-learning Community Placements

Students in Nutrition 245 (Sustainable, Local Food Systems) have begun the service-learning component of this UNC course by volunteering at their community placements. The service-learning course will allow students to examine the intersection of local foods and public health in addition to being able to make real-world contributions and a difference in their communities.

Each week, we’ll be highlighting a few of the 26 students’ reflections on their community placements. The reflections of Alexander Denunzio, Cayce Watts, Dhruv Desai, Kathryn Webb and Taylor Harper are being featured this week. They reflected on their first impressions about the organizations and the projects they will be working on over the next few months. This week’s community placements include the Carrboro Farmers’ Market, Farmer Foodshare and Carolina Campus Community Garden.

Denunzio, Desai, and their team will be assisting Market Manager Sarah Blacklin and the Carrboro Farmers’ Market to complete an in-depth SEED survey amongst the consumers and farmers attending the market as well as the local community surrounding the Farmers’ Market. Denunzio and Desai will be developing, collecting and evaluating customer data and trends at the Farmers’ Market through the SEED survey.

Amongst the survey’s specific tasks such as being a pollster and forager, Denunzio and Desai will be participating in counting or “clicking” consumers. This is because the entrances to Carrboro Farmers’ Market are not well defined, according to Denunzio.

Alex Denunzio counts customers at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market

Denunzio stated, “I can honestly say it is not what I expected – but in a good way.”

According to Denunzio, he is looking forward to working on the SEED survey because the research and the data they collect through the Carrboro Farmers’ Market can be distributed on a regional and national level to other farmers’ markets to improve efficiency and productivity.

The students are eager to engage in service-learning for many reasons – one being they know they can make a difference in their community. For instance, the SEED survey results will possibly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of farmers’ markets throughout the country and will cause people to be more concerned with locally grown food, stated Denunzio.

Desai is excited to be a part of this initiative because it will ultimately help to make a better Farmers’ Market, an organization that already does so much for the community, including doing outreach to promote local, sustainable foods from the Piedmont region. He asserts that, “by having a better Farmers’ Market, we can ensure that even more people from diverse economic backgrounds in the community have the opportunity to access healthy, nutritious, fresh and local foods grown and made by folks right here in North Carolina.”

Kevin Chung perches on a chair to get a good view as a counter for the SEED survey at the Farmers’ Market.

Cayce Webb will be volunteering at the Carolina Campus Community Garden. Webb stated, “It was fun meeting new people who were volunteering from other classes and also learning about the planting system as the garden and how the compost piles worked.  Everyone worked together very efficiently and was quick to offer help to others.”

Webb plans to continue volunteering with the garden, to possibly try to attend a veggie distribution to lower income UNC employees and to start more serious research on recipes and existing garden cooking demonstrations.

This semester, Kathryn Watts and Taylor Harper will be assisting with Farmer Foodshare’s Donation Stations at the Carrboro and Chapel Hill Farmers’ Markets. Farmer Foodshare is a nonprofit organization that raises funds and donations of fresh food for those at risk for hunger or malnutrition, while building healthy community food systems and enhancing community economic development.

Watts stated, “I was surprised to see things like beauty products and soap being sold there. The Chapel Hill market is smaller than the Carrboro market, and the winter market is especially limited. I’m interested to see how moving into the spring and summer seasons will affect turn out at the markets and donations being made to Farmer Foodshare.”

Students like Harper are already thinking of ways to help improve their community placements. “To help increase exposure, it would be ideal to have some sort of information pamphlet that the customers could peruse while shopping, which would allow them to develop a better understanding of Farmer Foodshare without interrupting their shopping experience.  I feel this would make customers more willing to donate to our cause if they understand what we are there for and would allow us to provide more food to the Interfaith Food Council,” Harper stated.

Be sure to keep reading this blog to learn more about the students’ experiences and involvement in the community throughout the spring semester.



Carolina Campus Community Garden in the News & Observer!
August 3, 2010, 8:52 pm
Filed under: Health, Media | Tags: ,

Check out this great article in The News and Observer about The Carolina Campus Community Garden. It’s inspirational to see the work that they are doing in providing free healthy, fresh produce to some of the UNC workforce.