UNCG prides itself on the number of opportunities offered to students after graduation. Our alumni not only go far and wide but make a difference in our backyards. Two recent alums have used their volunteer work and leadership experience at the UNCG community gardens to gain further employment upon graduation.
The UNCG Community Garden, located on McIver street, is worked by multiple Spartan volunteers to gain a crop yield for various purposes. Kalyn Milot ‘22 and Mia Hoskins ‘21 have gone above and beyond with the community garden to ensure that it continues its legacy as a cornerstone to UNCG and the surrounding area. For both of these alumni, their study of anthropology, the holistic study of the human experience, and their passion for gardening led them to where they are today.
University Communications caught up with the two alumni to ask them about their success in anthropology and in the community garden.
What drew you toward anthropology?
Milot: Anthropology hits everything and can be as broad or narrow as you want it to be. Even before I fully understood what anthropology was, I was passionate about what it stood for. The diversity that it encourages by listening to other people, raising up voices that haven’t been heard and giving them a platform, are things that I’ve always been on board with. Because it’s flexible no matter what you want to do, it allows for whatever passions you have to go from being unformed to having an organizational tool in anthropology. It’s applicable to everything.
Hoskins: I took a food and culture class with Dr. Andreatta. Honestly, I took it by accident, but then I thought it was fascinating. We see food on a plate, and we think, “This is a strawberry, I’m going to enjoy it.” But there’s so much backstory that comes before getting the strawberry on the plate. Something we do multiple times a day, eating, and we do it without really thinking about how it ends up there and who is oppressed to get it onto your plate.
What is the anthropology community like at UNCG?
Hoskins: I think the anthropology community is really diverse, which I really like. With anthropologists, you get a bunch of deep back-and-forth conversations. It’s a tight group. Everyone has different interests and some niche things that they are super interested in that they frame through anthropology. In a class of ten people, some focus on things you haven’t even thought about. Anthropology can be used in so many different ways and for so many different things; it’s a way to see the world.
Milot: In the cohort I graduated with, everyone was uplifting and engaged with each member’s ideas. We were able to build on one another’s thoughts, creating an enjoyable learning experience. We were able to interact and help each other. The professors understood that everyone came from different backgrounds and worked well with many students. Everything felt collective and encouraging.
Do you see anthropology being reflected in the community garden?
Hoskins: Absolutely. When COVID first happened, people were sent home, but our international students were stranded. Many weren’t allowed back into their countries, and they couldn’t leave campus. So, many came to the community garden to get food and prepare it to eat instead of eating cafeteria food. We got to share stories about different foods and what we were growing. We were able to use food as a way to get to know people and discuss different cultures. Being out in the garden, communicating with different people, connecting to the food pantry, and involving people in the garden to help created a community atmosphere. We’re on an even playing field with professors and community members while we’re in the garden. It’s cool to be able to share each other’s stories and lives on a different level than in the classroom.
Milot: One angle is to bring students in and get them thinking about the food being grown in the garden. The other angle is to give back to the community. What we grow goes to the Spartan Open Pantry. The ability to give back to the community really impacted me. When I first joined, it was for me, but now I contribute help people at UNCG and the local community. When I was food insecure as a kid, I wish my family could have gotten fresh, local organic produce for free. I know how difficult food insecurity is and how it can feel like the only accessible food is throwaways. Now, I’m on the other side. Through the garden, I can provide the best of the best to the Spartan Open Pantry. Being there as a participant and giving back to the community is huge.
Applied Anthropology is important because…
Hoskins: Society has tended to lose a knowledge for and appreciation of food. We’re caught up in “quick and easy” and therefore have lost a lot of meaning, like where it comes from and who’s involved in its production. When you are planting the seeds, watching plants grow, and picking the produce yourself, you appreciate the food you eat more. Many volunteers were not regularly cooking or were frequently eating out. Once you work in the garden and bring home produce, you start looking at recipes, cooking, and sharing food. It helped me appreciate the flavors and nutrients in what I was eating. It’s good to go back to the basics of what happens when you put the seed into the ground.
Milot: Applied anthropology is like taking your passion and filtering it through the organizational tool of anthropology in order to apply it in the real world. Applied anthropology allows for education that isn’t inside four walls. It’s a frame of mind, allowing people to learn abstract concepts better and faster.
How has UNCG supported you on your journey?
Hoskins: The faculty in the anthropology department have supported my journey. Dr. Andreatta helped me apply for a research grant, and I was able to get into the UNCG URCA Program. They provided me with the funds, support, and training to put together a research project during COVID. I participated in conferences, growing my speaking experience. The opportunity to do this research project, which is now being published, is a huge deal going into graduate school.
Milot: UNCG allowed me to be active in and passionate about my interests. This fall, research conducted with Dr. Andretta will soon be published in Practicing Anthropology, a career-oriented publication of the Society for Applied Anthropology. The title of the research is “Practicing Anthropology: Fieldwork at its Best: Community Engagement through a University Campus Garden.”
Being a UNCG volunteer at the community garden means being part of a team creating something of value to the Greensboro community. Not only are the community gardens used for teaching and learning, but the crop yields also circulate back into the Greensboro community. Some go to the Spartan Open Pantry. Some of the student volunteers get to take home crops as part of their success. The gardening club is a safe space for everyone who is willing to be a part of an environmentally sustainable community.
If you would like to get involved with the UNCG Community Garden, more information is available here.
Discover what the Anthropology Department at UNCG has to offer
Story by Dana Broadus, University Communications
Photography by Mia Hoskins