The title of this post was inspired by the website created by four undergraduate students I worked with this summer, along with the documentary “Growing Cities”.  I am a virgin to blogging, both because of a resistance to my generation’s need to express every thought and complaint to the world and my own misconception of what blogging is and is capable of creating.  So, when deciding on what to blog, I revisited a blog created by those undergraduates to remind myself of the contribution blogging can have to connect people and invite new ideas.

These students, who came from all over the country and knew nothing of urban agriculture in Atlanta, came together in a 7 week research experience and created an introduction to the world of urban farming from the farmer’s perspective.  They adopted a truly bottom-up approach to their research: working in the gardens, following the growers through the city for deliveries and other day to day experiences, and taking the time to interview and understand the people involved in the slow food movement in Atlanta from planting to policy.

Utilizing technology to bring to life the story of these growers, a storymap (http://www.arcgis.com/apps/MapJournal/?appid=1734e76f0dda47b289403180265865f0 ) was created and a WordPress website started (http://knowyourgroweratlanta.com/ ).  Following their lead, I furthered my investment with these gardens.  After an arm full of fire ant bites, cuts, pricks, stings and burns, I began to fully conceptualize the hard work and commitment it takes to sustain and develop agriculture in the city.

Agro-Ecology, the main partner involved in the summer research project and the main garden in which I work, demonstrates a commitment to wellness and environmental integrity that inspires me to re-conceptualize the way I approach my own work.

My thesis work examines the world of urban agriculture quantitatively, developing a methodology that would ascertain the optimal locations for future agriculture sites in the City of Atlanta using GIS.  Although this was important work, I realize that the technology I was utilizing was missing a key ingredient- human experience.  There are many invested parties in the slow food movement, from policy makers to chefs to growers and consumers, and all of them have contributions to make within the movement, but each are contributing independently of each other, sometimes redundantly.

Realizing the disconnect between some of the players involved in urban agriculture, I sought to bridge some of those gaps through technology and the knowledge I’ve acquired through my academic experiences.  Hopefully, facilitating partnerships and utilizing technology will continue to expand and create a fully systemic network within Atlanta.

In this way I wanted to use technology to connect the scales of knowledge, utilizing it to facilitate people instead of the isolation many times indicative of social media and virtual realities.

“We have only to look at the depletion of our aquifers, the pollution of our fresh water, and the collapse of our immune systems to realize that our physical (and mental) separation from our places and the natural world generally has come to lay us low”

-Delind, 2006

GoogleEarth, ArcGIS, and other mapping tools can be important stepping stones to understanding the physical world, but the value of engaging in collaborative work through actual interaction, getting your hands dirty and maybe harvesting a vegetable, or simply taking the time to be in the physical environment can often be overlooked in a society that is become increasingly wrapped up in the virtual.

For my first post, I stood on my soapbox, but I felt it was important for me to explain why this CURVE program is an innovation and an invaluable asset as we move forward towards new technologies. This space provides the tools and the diversity in its participants to create or utilize technology through human collaboration, expanding our minds and employing our instincts and life experiences. I am excited to see how the space will produce new methods for educating and new research that will inspire.