Undergrad Research Grant: Karina Roca, Blog #3

What a journey this has been!  My introduction to official research via the Undergrad Research Grant has really influenced my journey toward grad school and beyond.  Through the hard work, triumphs and challenges of this process, I am glad to say that I have really fallen in love with research and I am currently looking for research fellowships for grad school.  Being critically reflexive through this process has also steered me toward new interests and questions about related topics, such as seed saving.  My current research project centers urban agriculture, gentrification and Crit Race theory.  Through my research, seed saving has emerged as an extremely inspiring means of resistance and survival for small farmers in the city, belonging to networks of seed saving channels and communities.  I have previously examined the cultural weight of this practice for a capstone essay last semester, and I would like to revisit it with deeper field research.  This is the basis behind my ambition to re-apply for another grant for the summer with my mentor, Dr. Denise Santiago.

Our current research project has blossomed in the kitchens of small farmers, on plots of land ravaged by winter, and via email with food justice advocates that trot the globe with intentions for food revolution.  This has been an extremely rewarding journey and one that I would love to continue.  To see theory in practice is a mind-opening experience, connecting academia to the world in which it spectates.  The community health profiles I am building are almost at completion, and I am currently gathering more historic background of how and why community farms/gardens emerged in these areas to begin with.  The histories, as I am seeing it so far, mirror present-day conditions of food insecurity, land sovereignty and health disparities throughout the boroughs I am looking at.  The only challenges with this project, I would say, is studying urban farms in the off-season of harvest limits the amount of community members I meet in their natural elements. This, in turn, limits the amount of voices I get to incorporate.  However, I have learned so much from this project, and I plan to infuse my recent learnings into summer research on seed saving and community.

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