In the middle of an urban area in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina is a small community garden called the Wedge Community Garden. When I was a junior in college I emailed a lady about a potential gardening volunteer position and did not realize at the time how influential it would be on my outlook on permaculture, community gardens, and sharing that with others. Shamsa Visone and I worked in the garden almost every Saturday during the warmer months growing everything from okra, to cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, bok choy, garlic, chives, and so much more. We used sustainable farming practices with little chemical pesticides to care for our plants. I learned about composting, the importance of giving back to the soil and making sure all the nutrients were in balance. I also had the wonderful opportunity of working with a high school student and began my interest in being a high school science teacher.
Developing relationships and connecting with high school students can be a challenge. I had the opportunity to connect with a student named Donte during my time at The Wedge Community Garden. Donte had been court ordered volunteer hours and decided to spend some of those working in the garden. I guided him through several projects and I tried to make the laborious process as fun as I could by asking him questions about his life and why soil is important when growing vegetables. At the beginning, he barely answered any of my questions but I did my best to keep asking because I genuinely cared and wanted him to develop a love for gardening. Over time, he began to open up with me and I really felt as if we were making progress not only in the garden but forming a mutually respectful relationship. One weekend without notice, he stopped coming to the garden. Not all of my students will be easy to connect with and each student faces their own challenges but I believe that through never giving up on them I can grow their love for science.
This is one benefit of permaculture and using urban areas to grow anyone’s love for science but also the beautiful earth we live on. I think by turning more areas with degraded soils into areas that produce food is just the beginning of producing a sustainable future in which all people have access to sustainable and wholesome food sources.