Summer Centered: Poppy Northing’s Adventure in Urban Farming
Prospective biology and environmental studies major Poppy Northing ’22 is studying the biological nuances of an urban farming initiative at the University of California, Berkeley.
Poppy Northing ’22 is hoping to save the world. As a prospective biology and environmental studies double major, she wants to take on the climate crisis by working towards sustainable forms of agriculture. This summer, that mission has led her to her position as a KINSC-sponsored undergraduate research assistant in the Bowles agroecology lab at the University of California, Berkeley.
All summer long, you’ll find Northing either working on her own research project in the lab or working on the Oxford Tract, Berkley’s urban farm that hosts greenhouses, growth chambers, and field space for plant-science research.
“My overarching project uses both of these spaces,” says Northing. “My research project involves assessing a specific carbon characteristic of the soil in different soil management treatments to determine the best management method for more sustainable, efficient urban agriculture.”
For Northing, these spaces necessitate two different sets of responsibilities, but both keep her in touch with the earthier side of her research.
“In the lab, I am typically processing soils through sieving, drying, labeling, and weighing, analyzing soils using the specific protocol for my research, or helping out my advisor or other undergrads with small tasks such as cleaning,” she said. “At the Oxford Tract, I am usually planting, weeding, harvesting, or otherwise maintaining the experimental plots as well as the general space.”
Northing’s tasks in both of these places allow her to work towards her goal of eliminating climate change: her work in the lab helps her develop conjectures about soil management treatments and analyze samples from the Oxford Tract, and her work at the Oxford Tract allows her to conduct experiments testing her lab’s conjectures.
Back at Haverford, Northing has been able to pursue her interest in sustainable agriculture by taking classes in the Environmental Studies Department and by working at the Haverfarm, the College’s on-campus farm. The Haverfarm’s emphasis on sustainability and local food justice has allowed Northing to strive for her long-term goals while also learning about agriculture and having a positive impact on her community.
“Having already had the chance to interact and spend time at the Haverfarm, I am able to bring my experience in a different climate and ecosystem to the Oxford Tract, and I hope to bring plenty of new knowledge back to Haverford with me,” she said. “I plan to try to get seriously involved at the Haverfarm, and maybe even see if I can continue some of my research there.”
Overall, Northing’s summer work is a big step towards her dream career fighting climate change. She hopes to find a niche for herself by advocating for urban farming as a sustainable agricultural method that can fuel a more ecologically responsible future.
“My career goal is to help find ways for community to reverse climate change and improve sustainability through nature,” said Northing. “Agriculture, especially in an urban setting, is a huge part of this, and I would love to be able to make a recognizable impact with urban farming.”
“Summer Centered” is a series exploring our students’ Center-funded summer work.