i-Three Issue Corps: Farming the City: Utica

Diverse individuals growing self-sufficient communities

Can farming in a city get communities to self-sufficiency? No, but it is the place to start. This blog post is to share a journey and a belief that when we are responsible for providing food to share with community members it brings that community, as well as individuals, a level of satisfaction.

When individuals from diverse backgrounds, diverse cultures, and diverse communities are satisfied, how does it affect the health and well-being of those communities? Community well-being includes the social, economic, environmental, cultural, and political conditions of individuals to fulfill their potential.

Contributors to a project of bringing farming to Utica are community-based and interested in community gardening and share a similar vision: that if we provide the education, support, and have community  commitment to farm in the city, it will provide the first steps for community members’ satisfaction and well-being.

Utica is one of two cities located in central New York in Oneida County. Our county is rich and diverse in agriculture.  According to a demographic report from Headwaters Economic Profile System (https://headwaterseconomics.org/tools/economic-profile-system/ ), Utica’s population was 61,628 in 2015. The population demographic is:  Whites, 59.8%, African Americans, 14.7%, Asian Americans, 9.9%, and Hispanics or Latinos,11.4% with the balance made up of refugees.  The largest groups ever resettled to Utica include Bosnian, Burmese, individuals from the former Soviet Union, and Vietnamese https://www.mvrcr.org/about/populations/.

One refugee said,  “There is this kind of depression.  Everyone was dreaming to come to the U.S.A., but they were not happy. The people were put in apartments, missing activity, community. They were bored. They were homesick for traditional food, grown by hand, and many of the residents live at or below the poverty level.”

Utica has 32.2% of its population below the poverty line. Poverty is an important indicator of economic well-being. Individuals with limited income may have different values and attitudes as they related to their communities.

Fundamentally, community gardening is a shared endeavor providing opportunities for members to improve their environments and/or produce fruit and vegetables for food.  Community gardens have potential to improve nutritional status, increase physical activity, play a role in reducing stress and promote better mental health all while contributing to an enhanced quality of life for those involved.

Our project’s mission is to contribute to the evidence base that first-hand gardening activities play a role in increased level of satisfaction both in individuals, as well as in their community.

Our next blog post will define the participants, define our partners and the types of quantitative and qualitative studies we will be conducting.