Enrichment Foreign Fulbright Fulbright-Millennial Trains Project

Urban Farming Across America

May 29, 2015
Fulbright-MTP Train Participant Saja Al Quzweeni from Iraq, left, interviews

Fulbright-MTP Train Participant Saja Al Quzweeni from Iraq, left, interviews Skeets Rapier, the Director of Operations at The Renewable Republic, about his aquaponics, solarpowered organic farm. Photo by MTP Train’s Jenny Gottstein

My Fulbright-MTP project is surveying the best practices in urban agriculture across different American Cities. The anticipated outcome of this journey is to design a holistic model of urban farming that connects people with their land and each other. Urban agriculture will be utilized to offer not just food, but also a terrain in which people come together and build their community.

The project started in Los Angeles where I visited, Women Organizing Resources Knowledge Service or WORKS. The organization’s mission is to provide affordable housing with affordable food for lower-income communities,  and for people with disabilities and illnesses. My interview with Channa Grace, President of WORKS, inspired me as she used her personal experiences to leverage the status of the disadvantaged. WORKS also invites people to change their lives and adopt healthy eating habits through growing their own produce.

In Austin, Texas, I also had a great adventure, in spite of missing my interview because of a train delay. I had a productive day in Austin. I visited the downtown area and went to the lake where I met someone who works as a fisherman and a farmer. I randomly interviewed him while he was fishing. This was a unique opportunity for me to talk with local people and try to understand their motivations.

I spent an awesome day in San Antonio where I visited a farm named The Renewable Republic. Skeets Rapier, the Director of Operations, created a system of sustainable farming models in his backyard. The director built a small aquaponics system and raised beds to grow produce. His strategy to deal with water shortages in Texas is to use buckets that store water by using fiber optic materials. I also met John, a pop-up retailer and urban farmer, in San Antonio. John has a mobile cart where he sells plants grown organically and naturally. He likes to grow native plants and succulents – although he mostly likes to grow relationships with other people!

I am fortunate to meet these inspiring and dedicated people. I feel that my research is moving in the right direction. Yet, there is more to explore and lessons to learn in the coming days of my Fulbright-MTP journey.

Stay tuned to the Fulbright-MTP blog for entries from the other five participants! Follow the journey @FulbrightPrgrm and @MillennialTrain!

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