Posted on behalf of Alyce Flanagan, UW student intern
This spring one of my classes gave me the option of doing a service-learning project instead of writing a research paper. I jumped at the opportunity to gain some sort of real world experience instead of sitting in the library. I ended up volunteering in the vegetable garden at the UWBG Arboretum, and it has been an enjoyable experience. It is great to have an excuse to spend a few hours outside, get dirt on my hands and learn about growing food. The class that my arboretum service learning is connected to is Global Food Policy. Modern cultures have become extremely disconnected from our sources of food. Technology allows for the mass production of cheap food, and working in a garden has given me perspective on how what it takes to grow vegetables.
Food is a vital resource that is frequently taken for granted. Growing and gathering food is something that was an integral part of our ancestors’ lifestyles. In recent years, we have grown away from this routine. Food is bought from the grocery store, and we have only a vague idea of where it was before that. My Global Food Policy class looked at where food was before it got to the store. Our severe disconnection from the production of the food we eat is unfortunate, but it is a system that we are totally reliant on. Learning about food; where is comes from and how its grown, is the first step to not taking food and this its large scale production for granted.
Food sovereignty is an issue that relates to peoples right to decide what food they eat, where it comes from, and how it is produced. In America, most people would say that they have the right to choose their food, but in reality, much of our food is under the control of a few big agricultural businesses. Growing at least some of our own food is an important step towards food sovereignty.
The vegetable garden at the UWBG Arboretum is intended to teach children about the process of growing food, and hopefully inspire in them an interest in growing their own food. Volunteering at the Arb has done just that for me. Watching plants grow over the course of a few months is somehow exciting and motivational. Hopefully sometime in the next few years I will be able to start a garden and become at least a little less reliant on the mysterious system that produces food that feeds the world.
I am looking forward to visiting during the summer and seeing how the garden has changed.