The Role of the Farmacy Garden as a Site for Transformative Learning for Sustainability

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Virginia Tech


The neoliberal political economy guiding our present food system has contributed to our present unsustainable situation, characterized by wicked problems such as environmental degradation, food insecurity and diet-related illness. Our current condition demands a new conception of sustainability to guide creative and counter-hegemonic interventions that can supplant the dominant oppressive structures and processes presently characterizing development efforts. While community gardens have been recognized as common grounds for food systems transformation, research has largely missed this opportunity for exploration.

Drawing from the planetary and emancipatory frameworks of transformative learning, and a conception of sustainability rooted in life values, counter-hegemony, and social justice, this case study explores how a collective community garden is a critical pedagogy space for stakeholders to change their own reality within their food system. Using narrative inquiry as a methodology, I conducted semi-structured interviews with garden stakeholders (n=12). The lived experiences of study participants revealed the transformative potential of the Farmacy Garden rooted in the community food security movement. As a space that inspires critical consciousness for humanization, study participants deepened their awareness of new choices and possibilities in their food system rooted in life values. As a space that inspires social action for community economies, the Farmacy Garden promoted transactions rooted in reciprocity and gift-based exchange. Through critical hope and creative imagination for integral development, study participants are envisioning and exploring alternatives that can guide us in the challenging and contradictory work of "making new worlds" (Gibson-Graham, 2008, p. 628).



community gardens, community food security, transformative learning, Sustainability, narrative inquiry, critical consciousness, praxis