Summer Centered: Amelia Keyser-Gibson ’18 has an Appetite for Food Justice
Jointly sponsored by the Marian E. Koshland Integrated Natural Sciences Center and the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship, the biology major and Spanish and environmental studies double minor is exploring food sustainability in Trinidad and Tobago.
For Amelia Keyser-Gibson ’18, spending the summer working with Green Market Santa Cruz, an “ongoing experiment in community-based sustainable development” in Trinidad and Tobago, was a chance to apply her interests in food justice and sustainable farming to a new and exciting environment.
At Haverford, the biology major and Spanish and environmental studies minor applied those interests in myriad ways. She was an active member of ETHOS Food Initiative, a student group that works to raise awareness of food justice issues on campus; a co-head of the Food Systems Working Group, a collaboration between students and the administration to create meaningful changes around sustainable food sourcing in the Dining Center; and a resident of ehaus, the environmental co-op on campus.
"During college, I chose to focus much of my energy outside of the classroom on issues of food sustainability,” said Keyser-Gibson. “I was eager to see how my experiences at Haverford could carry over to a new community and also what I could learn from a sustainable food system initiative in a Caribbean country.”
Green Market combines an on-site farm and a weekly farmers’ market into a platform to discuss the importance of sustainability and food justice in a local context. During the week, Keyser-Gibson works on researching a medicinal herb garden for Green Market and teaches an “Eco-Minds” course where students from a local school come to the Green Market for an afternoon each week to engage in discussions around food and nutrition, Trinidad's local food system, and spend time in the garden.
Saturdays are “market days,” when she helps promote the vendors at the farmers’ market and encourages conversation about Green Market’s sustainability practices and initiatives.
"Farming and food production do not receive as much attention as they should within the climate change discussion but are becoming increasingly important as suburban sprawl has taken over land previously used as farmland, and we have become removed from where our food is produced due the accessibility of grocery stores,” she said. “It is becoming increasingly important for communities to shift their food priorities back towards [foods] that can be grown locally, instead of shipped halfway across the world.”
With funding from both the Marian E. Koshland Integrated Natural Sciences Center and the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship, Keyser-Gibson sees this internship as an opportunity to expand upon her extracurricular activities and interest in environmental studies.
"Throughout the environmental studies curriculum, I had the opportunity to work with and learn from community-based organizations within the Philadelphia region who are working on promoting sustainability,” she said. “The environmental studies capstone course this fall focused on the nuisances and challenges in working with community partners surrounding environmental issues, and while an application proved difficult in a classroom format, I was drawn to working with the Green Market for hands-on experience.”
She also took a specific interest in Green Market because of the unique climate and resources available for study in Trinidad and Tobago.
"Trinidad's main local crops vary vastly from those available in the U.S., as they can grow chocolate, coffee, sugar, all sorts of tropical fruits, such as mangos and bananas, and more,” Keyser-Gibson said. “The Green Market was the first farmers market to open in Trinidad, focused on promoting and supporting small local farmers. Since then, others run by the government have started, but the Green Market remains the only one located within a garden, while also promoting sustainable practices, like being styrofoam-free and working on becoming plastic-free.”
A recent graduate, Keyser-Gibson is beginning a full-time job as a research assistant at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University next month, and is excited to apply the skills acquired and lessons learned from Green Market Santa Cruz to her new position.
"I’ve gained experience running and organizing events, as well as in education around environmental issues,” she said. “I learned about the challenges of running a small organization, working in a community setting, and relating across cultural differences, which will serve me well in future endeavors.”