You can’t have sustainable agriculture and improve food access without actually knowing how to farm—that’s according to Kate Sjovold, '21, who spent her summer interning at Shalom Farms as part of the Civic Fellowship Program. Kate’s Civic Fellowship was her second summer with Shalom Farms, in which she shifted her focus from learning to farm to developing a deeper understanding of food justice, sustainable agriculture practices, and community development. Kate worked with faculty mentor Mary Finley-Brook, Associate Professor of Geography and the Environment, during her Civic Fellowship. 

One outcome of her Civic Fellowship was the creation of an illustrated zine—a self-published, hand-created magazine—about food justice, the basics of gardening, composting, and more. We spoke with Kate to learn more about her experience as a Civic Fellow and the creative process behind “The Green Zine”. 

Why did you choose Shalom Farms for your Civic Fellowship?

I chose Shalom Farms for a few reasons. First, I’m an environmental studies and geography major and I have always been interested in how regenerative, local agricultural practices can address climate change. Instead of learning theoretically about the benefits of sustainable agriculture, I wanted to actually learn how to farm. 

Shalom Farms is a food-justice oriented non-profit farm, uniquely positioned to work with community members and partner organizations to ensure that everyone in Richmond has access to healthy, affordable produce. I also wanted to work with a team, to farm and learn alongside other people, and to be a part of the non-profit/environmental/agriculture community in the area while focusing our efforts on building a healthier Richmond. 

Why did you choose a zine as a format for your final project?

While formal academic essays have their place, it is not a very accessible, engaging, or interesting format for disseminating information to a broader audience. Shalom Farms hosts tons of volunteer and education groups of many different ages and backgrounds and producing a more approachable booklet of related information seemed like a more effective and useful final project. I wanted to create something that people would want to read. 

How did you decide on the topics for your zine?

The zine essentially has an overview of food justice, some DIY projects, and basic biology/science concepts that are somehow related to agriculture. I knew that I wanted to include a brief explanation of food deserts and food justice, since those are really core concepts related to the work Shalom Farms is doing and are not terms that are very well-known or taught in school. 

I also wanted the zine to include some hands-on projects, to get people personally invested and involved in some basic agriculture concepts and to show them that basically anyone can start composting or gardening in a raised bed. Since Shalom does a lot of education, I wanted to include some science education as well. I know that I learned about pollination and photosynthesis and insects in school, but a lot of those elementary science concepts have faded from memory. 

Both Shalom and my mentors were supportive of me taking a more creative approach to this final project and helped me narrow down my list of topics — I’d still really like to make another zine about climate change and agriculture to get more into the specifics of global warming, climate change, and how our current agricultural practices contribute to climate change, and how regenerative agriculture can mitigate the effects of climate change. I wanted to keep this one more fun and informative than heavily talk about climate change, despite that being a huge motivating factor for me getting involved [in agriculture] in the first place.

Who do you hope would read your zine? What’s one thing you hope they would learn from it?

Initially, I thought the audience would be mostly elementary-age students, but when I started putting it together and talking to friends and co-workers, I realized that most people don’t know much about agriculture or remember basic biology. I hope that anyone interested in sustainability, in food, in science, in plants can get something out of this book, even if it’s just an appreciation for some hand-drawn tomato plants.

Download The Green Zine.