Growing with the Communities

Hi all, Jake and Amelia here!

We’ve been working hard planning out our planting schedules, and finding plants that work the best together to ensure the Mobile Oasis is sustainable as well as delicious. We’ve also been in communication with communities to find out what specifically we can grow for them in our space and what they can teach us about farming. Alongside with planting and harvesting we’ve also been doing a lot of training and site visits. Visiting sites has been a big part of this training week and we’ve spent a lot of time visiting each market, drop off, and farm site in order to make sure we’re working with these communities, not just for them.

The site visits have been incredibly moving and important, in each of them we got a chance to talk to community members about their relationship to the Mobile Oasis and learn about how food insecurity is impacting them. Just from these initial visits, we learned a lot about what food insecurity in Greensboro looks like, as well as a lot of the history of how Greensboro came to be this way. Market times have been informative about this as well, and the more chances we get to learn from the members of each community we learn more about what our role in all of this is.

As we learned about the history of these Greensboro communities we also looked at ways issues of class and race play into the levels of food insecurity among them. As well as holding a session on racism in the food system we heard many first-hand accounts as well as historical evidence from community members themselves about the racist laws and systems that contributed to the levels of food insecurity in Greensboro. Our visits to Warnersville and the Cottage Grove community highlighted this especially, as both communities access to food is greatly impacted by decisions directly made by the City Of Greensboro.

As we visited Warnersville we learned about how they are one of the oldest communities in Greensboro dating back almost 150 years. We heard there about how the community had flourished, with its own main street featuring shops, grocery stores, and independently owned businesses. The community was disrupted by the placement of a highway in the mid 60’s that disrupted the main street and flow of movement through the Warnersville community. Further zoning and construction laws cut the community off and contributed greatly both to a loss of income and a loss of access to food in the area.

Similar issues are affecting the Cottage Grove community, whose immigrant populations can’t grow their own crops because of contaminated water. The city, upon facing pressure to remove a landfill in the area incorrectly filled it, resulting in uneven land and the leaching of toxins into the water supply. Despite numerous site visits and investigations from the EPA and the housing department, the water is still being polluted, and a community that’s already cut off from easily accessible food has their own ability to grow it taken away.

These two sites are not exceptions, these communities access to food have all been limited in one way or another, and unpacking that history is crucial to working alongside these communities. As we prepare more for market and begin working on how we’ll be setting up in each of these communities we must be conscious both of the intentions we bring into the space and those of the people before us. These first weeks of working with the Mobile Oasis project have been a really informative and inspiring start to what is looking to be a really amazing summer. We’ll be continuing to update our blog each week to keep everyone updated on the Mobile Oasis project as well as reflecting on the work we do throughout Greensboro!


Starting Seeds with the QLSP Summer Service Fellows


(Here’s the Mobile Oasis Summer team! From left to right: Mary-Kate, Maya, Jackie, Amelia, Jake, and Elijah. Photo taken by our fearless leader Audrey!)


We’re Jake ’19 and Amelia ’18, the QLSP Summer Service Fellows and are excited to be writing from Greensboro! There’s been a lot of work over the past weeks getting our bearings situated with all of the exciting opportunities happening this summer. This summer we will be working through the Bonner Center on campus with a new project Guilford is taking on, Mobile Oasis. This is a program that was started by the Guilford County Health Department that brings produce to different food insecure community farmers markets at a reduced price.

As Guilford takes on the Mobile Oasis program, we will be able to expand our relationships within the Greensboro community visiting new sites as well as those we work with throughout the year. Between site visits, seed starting, discussions about food inequality, and some good o’l weeding we’ve been busy to say the least. Bringing together students from all over campus as well as other universities and parts of the community, Mobile Oasis is moving forward with a dedicated energetic team excited to take the project to new heights.

(Here’s Jake happy about starting some seeds in the greenhouse on campus!)

We thought a good place to start would be sharing some of the vocabulary we likely will be using this Summer that you might not know.

Food Desert– The USDA defines Food Deserts as areas of the country that are “vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods.” In order for a location to qualify as a food desert, more than 33% of a community must live more than one mile from a large grocery store. While this definition helps us get an idea of which communities are being affected, it’s a fairly limited definition and leaves out many communities that are struggling with access to food.

Food Insecurity– Food insecurity is defined as “the state of being without reliable access to sufficient quantity of affordable nutritious food.” While the USDA Food Desert label identifies many communities with a lack of nutritious food, there are thousands of people who suffer from food insecurity but do not live in a labeled zone. 

Food Sovereignty– Food Sovereignty is something that we focus on a lot at Guilford and something that the Food Justice Club is dedicated to. The U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance defines Food Sovereignty as “the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.” This is incredibly crucial to the Mobile Oasis project, and to any project addressing food insecurity. It’s neither our place nor constructive to simply provide people with food because we hear that they are hungry. By focusing on food sovereignty communities are able to provide what they need and want, as well as develop systems to sustain themselves and push against systems that contribute to food insecurity.

Looking forward to sharing more about our adventures and the things we learn on the way!

-Jake and Amelia