Utica's Garden Grows Greener
The Utica area is sometimes described as a food desert, or an area where healthy, fresh food is not immediately available. This lack of fresh food forces residents to turn to cheaper, less healthy options such as convenience store food. Stephanie Ingraham ’13 is an intern with Utica Urban Gardens at For the Good, Inc., an initiative that works to fight poverty and provide low-income individuals with fresh crops while preserving the environment. She's helping to organize the layout of the gardens and working hands-on with the crops. Her internship is supported by the Couper Fund through the Career Center.
For The Good is an agency created by and managed by Kirkland College alumna Cassandra Harris-Lockwood K'74.
At the Utica Urban Gardens, Ingraham helps plan the layout of the gardens and get the herbs and vegetables planted. She works directly with residents who come to help weed and water the plants. Ingraham is collaborating with partners of the Garden Club including Center for Development, the Health Department, the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees, the Thea Bowman House, and the Utica Community Health Center to find out how to target the neediest populations in Utica. She also spreads publicity about the gardens through For the Good's publication The Utica Phoenix.
For the Good, Inc. is a nonprofit organization in Utica that aims to provide residents with ways to “overcome poverty through their own means” through initiatives such as the Mohawk Valley Entrepreneurs Guild, King of Kings Life Development Program, the Study Buddy Club, and the Urban Community Gardening Initiative.
Ingraham, an environmental studies major with a focus in public policy, is enjoying interning for an organization that combats poverty while following sustainable farm practices. As a poverty-relief initiative, Utica Urban Gardens provides low-income Utica residents with fresh fruits and vegetables in exchange for work in the gardens. By working to help grow the food that they consume, these individuals gain a sense of confidence and self-worth that helps break the poverty cycle. For the Good provides an alternative food source to individuals who otherwise might not have access to better produce.
The organization also promotes green efforts through local farming and sustainable practices. The Utica Urban Gardens are located in areas that were previously overgrown city lots, making efficient use of plots that used to be unworkable and unsightly. Furthermore, the gardens use horse manure from local farms to fertilize soil, resulting in higher yields and making the plots even more efficient. Because the produce grown at the gardens is local, the effort cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions involved in transporting fruits and vegetables from other areas.
Ingraham has enjoyed her internship so far, and she hopes that her efforts will help improve the community she’s working with as well as enhance her understanding of nonprofit work. At the Garden Club, Ingraham is observing the inner-workings of a nonprofit organization, expanding her knowledge of how to grow food and improving her public communication skills. She hopes that these experiences will make her a stronger candidate when entering the workforce.
Ingraham also enjoys backpacking, and is happy to be so close to the Adirondacks this summer. She was also looking forward to running the Boilermaker, a 15k run that annually takes place in July.
Stephanie Ingraham is a graduate of Cromwell High School in Cromwell, Conn.