Looking back on True Greens

Looking back on the semester, I believe that I picked the project that best suits me.  I have never been in an applied learning class before — to my knowledge at least– and this was an interesting thing to be a part of during my first semester at UMBC.  Growing and selling food on campus to Chartwells and other off campus restaurants was only part of True Greens’ mission.  What I realized as we got deeper into the project was that we were trying to prove a bigger point.  The point that locally grown and produced food is something that betters our food systems and that our college campuses need to stand behind that too.

Fortunately for the True Greens team, a lot of the bureaucratic red tape that I saw many other groups get stuck behind was passed by a semester or two before.  I believe that the amount of obstacles like waiting on emails, meetings, and approvals to get stuff done is directly related to when the projects started up.  It’s no surprise then that True Greens’ and the permaculture gardeners were the two groups to physically progress the furthest this semester.  That’s because they were started before this INDS 430: Creating Food System Justice class.  But I don’t for a second doubt the nonphysical, behind-the-scenes work done by the other groups.  These groups paved the way for upcoming classes to get working… well at least put the plants in the ground and people at the markets and CSAs.  I saw first hand some of the opposition there is for change in a higher institution of learning and I wasn’t even involved directly with those groups.  One could assume that this struggle for change trickles up to the government, and explains why our current food system is so broken.

With that being said though, I think we are on a turn for the better.  Initiatives such as this class speak volumes to that.  Professionals like Professor Wrigley, and students from every walk of life care about the system and are actively working towards changing it.  These are really only the first steps we can take in this process.

My advice to future students who wish to take this class is to be prepared to get out from behind your desks and bridge the explanation-action gap in food policy– and well policy in general.  There are too many classes that study the problems in our societies but this is all they do.  The goal of that knowledge is to simply pass an exam or write a paper.  Classes like these teach through experience, and I think that’s important to understand before coming into the class.  It isn’t a traditional class, but that’s what is so great about it.  We’ve been working in these projects the whole semester.  I can honestly say that they are truly resume boosters, experience builders, and learning opportunities.  But they are also something bigger than that.  They are baby steps towards a better tomorrow.  I’ve spent one semester in the class and I feel pretty proud of the project I was involved in, and even plan on staying involved in it for semesters to come.  Finding something that speaks to you and working at it should be what higher education is about.  And with that growth, you’ll probably also learn something, or see things a little differently than before.

-Erik Schwarzenberg

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