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Service-Learning Students Help Ready Land for Community Farm

On Saturday, Sept. 17 students in Focused Inquiry Professor Joseph Cates' UNIV 211 "Food for Thought" service-learning course worked to clean up a creek and garden area in eastern Henrico County. The service is part of a larger farm-to-school urban agriculture program at Fairfield Middle School.

The area, known as Cornerstone Community Farm, will encompass four acres of unused adjacent school property and a tributary of the James River. The farm will help combat two critical local challenges – food insecurity and stormwater runoff – in a setting that promotes education and conservation-minded agricultural production.

A partnership between The Henricopolis Soil and Water Conservation District (HSWCD); the Community Food Collaborative; and Henrico County Public Schools, the project will allow VCU service-learning students to provide support, ranging from hands-on gardening to public education on the program and its benefits. Cornerstone Farm is the latest addition to an already-strong community collaboration involving a school garden and conservation education at Fairfield Middle School.

Awarded $50,000 by the National Association of Conservation Districts to promote urban agriculture conservation, HSWCD serves as a local guardian for fertile soil and clean water, promoting conservation among farming, residential and commercial communities, and classroom instruction to 7,000 children each year.

The Community Food Collaborative is a nonprofit community development organization that promotes health, wellness and environmental stewardship for all residents across the region through a network of urban farms and community education programs.

For more information, contact Nicole Anderson Ellis, associate professor in the Focused Inquiry Department, at naellis@vcu.edu.

This article was updated on December 6, 2016 to reflect the name change of "Stony Run Community Farm" to "Cornerstone Community Farm."