Thursday, October 5, 2017

Cultivating Community photovoice project

Cultivating Community: 

Portraying work in local food system issues as experienced by people in the Monadnock Region

Jess Gerrior, MS - Antioch University New England

Project Description:

This project involves people in the Monadnock Region who are engaged in work around local food system issues. Whether farming, gardening, educating, purchasing, or advocating for a more just, vibrant, and sustainable food system, there are many ways people experience this work. "Cultivating Community" is a doctoral service learning project focused on what their work entails, what it takes to do it, why they are involved, and what it means.

"Cultivating Community" events are informal gatherings for people engaged or interested in work around local food system issues. Participants are invited to share and discuss their perspectives. My role in the project is to facilitate the creation of a realistic portrayal of participants' work, which will be a new, shared resource: a mobile display of images and narratives that gives voice to those most deeply involved in the issues of local food systems.

This display will be housed by Monadnock Farm & Community Coalition (MFCC) so as to be accessible to the wider community of stakeholders, through events such as the Feast on This! Film Festival and partner organizations’ activities. It will offer a new way for participants, policy-makers, and change agents to connect with each other and communicate the nature and value of the work that is happening (and needs to happen) around local food.

The project is a response to a community-voiced need for better cohesion and synergy among various regional food efforts. The vision articulated by Food Solutions New England (FSNE) to grow 50 percent of the region’s food locally by 2060 is about more than getting enough to eat; it is “a future in which food nourishes a social, economic, and environmental landscape that supports a high quality of life for everyone, including generations to come.” MFCC’s mission and strategic plan are aligned with this vision and represent the combined efforts of over 73 member organizations, who will be able to lever this project to build capacity toward their respective missions, e.g., in fund raising, educational programming, or evaluation.

Aside from bringing scholarly inquiry to the on-the-ground work of local food systems, a hope for this project is to widen the "lens" for others to see themselves in this picture.

Invitation to the community:

(1) Any time you are engaged in gardening, farming, composting, cooking, educating, organizing, writing, or pretty much anything related to local food issues that can be photographed... 
  • send me photos (new or old) and/or 
  • let me know when I can photograph your work. I am happy to offer some hands-on assistance with your work in exchange for the opportunity to take photos. 
(2) Throughout October and early November 2017, join me and other community members to share about the stories and experiences behind the photos. The project calendar is listed here and on Facebook; you're welcome to share these links. These informal conversations, centered around your perspectives on local food system issues as you experience them in your work, are meant to be informal and fun. 
  • If none of the dates listed on the project calendar work and you would like to offer another gathering over over tea, potluck, campfire, or any other occasion, click here to CONNECT.
  • These gatherings are open to anyone who identifies with work on local food issues in the Monadnock Region, whether or not you have photos to contribute. 
  • If you are traveling, it's always a good idea to call/text in advance to confirm: (603) 785-1759.

Mid-October update: 

As of this point, the Cultivating Community project has incorporated the Harrisville Farmers' Market, a locavore potluck, Community Garden Connections' Harvest Fest, the Cheshire County Conservation District's Dirt! film series, Monadnock Farm & Community Coalition's policy forum, gleaning at an apple orchard, packing produce boxes at The Community Kitchen, and other activities related to the work people are doing on local food issues in the Monadnock Region.

A Facebook page has been created for the project along with a series of event pages that can be shared. Please feel free to invite community members and attend whether or not you have photos to contribute.

During the week leading up to the Monadnock Farm & Community Coalition's Feast on This! film festival, participants are especially invited to "presentation preview sessions" to weigh in on the "final" product and ensure their collective voice is justly portrayed.

Who am I? I am a doctoral student in the Environmental Studies program at Antioch University New England. My scholarship focuses on community gardening and food empowerment. My roles have included sustainability coordinator, food co-op project manager, home and community gardener, educator, local food scholar, amateur photographer, mother, and master soup maker.

Donahue, B., Burke, J., Anderson, M., Beal, A., Kelly, T., Lapping, M., … Berlin, L. (2017). A New England Food Vision. Food Solutions New England. Retrieved from