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Joanne Giggey

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Research Project

Food education and production at public gardens in the United States

In a country contending with rapid urbanization, farmland loss and soaring metropolitan populations, Americans are becoming disconnected from where and how their food is grown. As public gardens re-examine their contemporary functions and responsibilities, these institutions are aptly poised to host food education programs. To investigate the role of public gardens in food education and production, 230 surveys were sent to U.S. public gardens and arboreta inquiring about the existence of food related programs and gardens at their institutions.

From the 49 gardens that responded, an interested picture emerged. Public gardens of various sizes, affiliations and locations are enhancing local food security through food education and production programs. From on-site community gardens to cooking classes; tours of cultural food markets to farmer’s markets; school gardens to vegetable demonstration gardens; these institutions are raising fruits and vegetables as well as awareness, community cohesiveness, quality of life, and local food sources.

This project paper reports on the extent, diversity and significance of food
education at public gardens within the United States. In addition to highlighting existing food education programs and collections, this study is intended to serve as a resource guide to individuals and institutions interested in food-related education and issues.

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Joanne is a science teacher at an independent school in New York City.


Joanne grew up surrounded by the natural beauty of New England in both Coventry, CT and Frye Island, ME. While earning her Bachelor of Science
in Plant and Soil Sciences at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Joanne worked on the department greenhouse staff, designed and maintained a campus garden, spent a semester abroad in the Amazonia region of Brazil, received a variety of scholarships, completed a horticultural internship at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo's Rainforest and received a National Science Foundation grant to conduct botanical research on lupines and strawberries at the UC Davis's Bodega Bay Laboratory. Upon graduation, Joanne went on to coordinate the Field Education Program for a Forest Service program in the San Bernardino Mountains, CA until she moved to Portland, Oregon.

In Portland, Joanne worked as a transportation planner for the region's renowned public transit system, and was then hired to form the agency's first horticulture department, which included writing the currently intact planting policies. After a break from work when Joanne traveled in Western Europe for 4 months, she accepted a position with the City of Portland's Horticulture Department coordinating the education program for Portland Community Gardens. Feeling that growing food and teaching about the plant/human relationship within public school and community gardens was the most rewarding position she has held, Joanne began to research graduate school programs that would allow her to formally learn more about public garden management. She graduated from Cornell University in 2003.