Rachel Grewell and CURA: Measuring the vegetative and social yields of the Urban Farm and Garden Alliance

Rachel Grewell (second from right) – “One thing that makes our project different is that we actually want to bond with the community to make sure it is a success. They said to come to the events, the dinners, the gardens and so I did. And it has been so much more rewarding.”

The local impact of urban farming, breaking down the boundaries between communities and academia, and #CURAStudents are the topics for today’s #CURAisUrbanAg installment. We’d like to introduce you to Rachel Grewell: she is a graduate student working with CURA and the Urban Farm and Garden Alliance (a great local urban agriculture group profiled in previous posts). Rachel is helping them quantify just how powerful their work is–she is using her degree in sociology to measure both the vegetative and social yield of the local gardens of the Alliance. Are you #CURAious? Read on.

Rachel began her work with the Alliance in September 2014 but she says much of the challenges presented by her project were unexpected. “We have to work with the community, build relationships and become a real part of the place before we just dive in and start writing our papers. It’s different from what I’m used to…but it fits with my values and myself much more.”

Her CURA funded project with the Alliance will show how much food their local gardens are giving to the community by the end of this harvest season. “We intentionally tried to create research practices that can be continued on by the community members. Even if they don’t have a CURA grant or CURA’s help in the future. The Alliance is made of community members. No one is doing this as a full-time job. So the research methods need to be low cost, not time consuming, resource efficient and easy to use.”

Interestingly, Rachel is also showing how the gardens are increasing people’s comfort with each other, pride in their neighborhood and social well-being. The guide she creates will be used to continue the process for years to come.

The Alliance is not the only local organization that this study could highlight. How much social and food capital are they all yielding right in our areas? That is what we call food for thought! #badpuns

CURA is proud to be part of such a community oriented and fueled project. Rachel emphasized how much she appreciates the spirit of the project: talk with the community, work with the community, and ask more at the start so that you benefit the community in the long run.