In my studies at Goddard College I examine rooftop farming practices, food justice, innovative networks, urban community spaces, non-profit management, and community education. My studies are grounded within my life and work in Philadelphia. With every subject I dig into, I continually find that the power and intricacies of grounded community is present and of the utmost importance. American communities have become siloed and fractured. Our neighborhoods are increasingly separated by age, race, class, and political beliefs. Our divisions leave us weaker.
Philadelphia, like many post-industrial urban areas, is facing intersecting issues of community health, food insecurity, environmental degradation, and rampant inequality spread across neighborhoods siloed according race, class, and age. When our communities are fragmented, everybody suffers. Environmental issues kept out of view of the wealthy compound climate change. Racism, gun violence, and the school to prison pipeline are robbing us of insightful leadership, innovative ventures, and thoughtful collaborations. Julian Ageyman speaks of a movement for “just sustainability” that is at its core about helping both humans and the environment flourish. Our communities and ecosystems are more resilient with diversity, distributed resources, and innovations that develop in response to the ever-changing landscape. Change is the only constant and communities of all kinds are better prepared to observe and respond to change when diverse perspectives and skill-sets collaborate.
My work as founder and Executive Director of Cloud 9 Rooftop Farm in Philadelphia forms the grounding center of my studies in Social Innovation and Sustainability (SIS). Cloud 9 began as a dream to produce more healthy produce in Philadelphia, create beautiful green spaces, and mitigate urban environmental degradation. Through my studies in SIS, I have come to see the importance of developing diverse, cohesive communities, and the potential Cloud 9 holds as a force for collaboration, inspiration, and discourse across boundaries of race, class, age, and gender.
I have worked in organic farming and education for ten years. I find that the work of gardening and the joy of sharing food is a practice that can foster honest human connection. All humans eat. Growing food requires the aid of many hands. Side-by-side, covered in dirt and sweat, we toil towards a common goal, laugh at our humanity, and find the time to listen to one another, the birds, the neighbors, or our own thoughts. We connect. This semester I am digging deeper into this process of connecting to one another and to the land. There are plenty of forces in our economy, our food system, and our history that serve to tear us apart. In my studies I am working to develop Cloud 9 Rooftop Farm as a vehicle for diverse community cohesion, discourse that advances social justice, a tool for community food justice, and a method for deepened sense of place and stewardship.
More information on Cloud 9 can be found at www.cloud9rooftopfarm.org