Warren Wilson College News

A hands-in-the-dirt approach to global food security

Story and Photos by Paul Clark

This article is part of The Story Behind, a regular series that features extraordinary photos from Warren Wilson life. (Click here to see more.)

Emily Chiara at work at The Lord's Acre
Emily Chiara, who is studying food production as part of her global studies degree, works at The Lord’s Acre to produce food for a local food bank.

On a half-acre plot several times a week, Emily Chiara gets to think globally and act locally.

Weeding the gardens at The Lord’s Acre, in a community not far from Warren Wilson, brings a hands-on experience to the global studies degree she is on track to receive in December. Chiara has always been interested in agriculture and food production—indeed, part of her studies at Warren Wilson included observing the role women play in India’s industrialized farming. Now she’s involved in something very different: growing organic food for those who need it, while teaching those who want to know how to do it.

Chiara, a Northampton, Mass., resident, has adopted The Lord’s Acre, a nonprofit organization that supplies free produce to a local food bank, as her service work. Service brings the other two legs of Warren Wilson’s triad—academics and work—together, she said. It’s through service that students apply what they’ve learned. It helps them—it’s helped her—understand the people who live around the college and the issues they face.

The Lord's Acre

“I never wanted to be a student who stayed on campus, focused on herself for four years, and then left. That’s not how I want to live my life,” Chiara said. “Service teaches students that they are a part of a community and that it’s their role to help out in whatever way they can.”

And so she and two other Warren Wilson students plant rows of spinach, weed mounds of squash and haul bales of hay for potatoes and other crops. As she gains experience, she hopes to be able to offer a tip or two to someone learning to grow her own food.

It’s hot, sticky work, but she loves it because she feels that she is contributing to something larger than herself. She is giving—and receiving—something of value. She is providing a service.

“Everyone deserves to have good quality food, and everyone can grow food in some capacity,” she said, taking a break from cleaning vegetables on a recent sunny day. “Food security is something that I feel passionate about.”

After graduation, Chiara hopes to work with an environmentally based nonprofit organization.

Emily Chiara

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