On Thursday Feb. 18, the sociology department hosted a virtual group discussion about the relationship between urban agriculture and the fight to create communities that are both environmentally and socially sustainable. Along with the group discussion, the event featured a panel of local urban farmers to mediate the conversation.
Dr. Jennifer Tello Buntin, associate professor of the sociology department, sponsored the event which was associated with her sustainable communities course. The course looks at the sustainability of the environment, as well as incorporating it with social and economic sustainability.
“An important part of that work is being that by urban farmers and community gardeners, and so I wanted to bring in a group of local farmers and gardeners to talk about their experiences for doing that work, and also how this thing that is just digging in the dirt and growing food is related to these bigger issues of social justice and sustainable communities,” said Buntin.
The event featured four panelists who were urban farmers and community gardeners from different agricultural organizations. The panelists were Xaver Colon, who works for two organizations; the Urban Growers Collective and Semillas y Raices, Stephanie Dunn from Star Farm Chicago, Sean Ruane of Just Roots and Advocates for Urban Agriculture and Frank Voltottorni from the Office of Community Engaged Learning, in collaboration with the Fairmont Community Partnership.
The event benefited students by showing what work is being done to create a more sustainable community, along with demonstrating sustainable agriculture in communities.
“One way is that it’s a really great way to see what kind of work is being done in the communities and how folks are working within their own communities to make them more sustainable,” said Buntin. “It could also be potentially something that a student is genuinely interested in participating in either as a volunteer or as a career, and all of the folks on the panel can give are great examples of people who have taken a part in over the years, and also really developed programs to help other people learn how to do that too if they’re interested.”
“The main goal is to help not only the students in my course, but anyone who’s interested within our Lewis community to get more information about urban agriculture and its role within sustainable communities and then also perhaps to provide some examples of how they could approach going into this line of work, if it’s something they’re interested in as well,” said Buntin.
This event related to the Lewis community because the school has always been committed to sustainability, and an example of this would be the new solar panels that were installed, as well as the green initiatives throughout the school’s campus.
“This of course fits really well with this broader idea within the university that a part of our mission would be to create a sustainable community is right,” said Buntin. “This event offers more examples of people working within the community to kind of pull from ideas and also makes those connections potentially between students and faculty and these organizations in the future.”
Sustainability is becoming even more of a pressing concern for students and faculty who want to start thinking more practically their environmental impact on their community.