Crystal Hickerson

GFI Fellow - Class of 2015

Graduate Student, Comparative Literature
UC Irvine


Grow Your Own Food Campaign


The aim of this project is to change attitudes and practices towards food production and disposal by organizing a set of visual and social cues to normalize sustainable practices as part of the everyday life of our campus community. The project addresses the question of how can we reframe growing your own food from being a “hobby” to an “everyday practice.” Three activities have been planned and implemented in relation to this aim. 1) An April 3 event, called “Welcome Back,” was a community-building affair at the Verano Old Rec Center — families ate a farm-to-table meal provided by Tender Greens and planted tomatoes, beets or parsley in terra cotta pots to take home for their patios. 2) An April 26 event, “Who Pooped in the Park,” for community residents in honor of Earth Day was organized in the Verano Place Orchard — participants learned about hot composting and caring for red wriggler worms that were welcomed into a new community compost bin in the community garden. 3) An upcoming end-of-the-term plant show and dinner also is scheduled for June 19, in collaboration with Verano Place social planning and the Verano Place Resident Council.


Our project goals fall along two axes: growing food and nurturing soils:

  • Fifty percent increase in residents who grow their own food.
  • Fifty percent increase in number of residents participating in Verano Orchard resident transformation.
  • Increased sense of confidence and self-sufficiency among residents growing some of their own food.
  • Increased resident awareness regarding systems for food production, distribution, donation and disposal.
  • Increased environmental awareness and pro-environmental behaviors beyond food issues.

Unfortunately, we are as yet unable to gauge any sense of increase until the post-test survey goes out at the end of June.

Future Plans

I intend to follow up on this project by conducting 20 interviews over the summer to map some of that which Lauren Berlant terms the “weather systems” of a subject’s experience (2013) — that is, to map some of the feelings residents have about growing food so that we can better target those resistances. I will first utilize techniques of narrative analysis developed by Roland Barthes (1977), not making any assumptions about what the the genres of health, growing plants, good food or being busy mean on the level of denotation or popular culture definitions; instead, I will track how they function within the local narratives of survey respondents and interviewees.


Valerie Olson, Sally Geisler, Mojgan Sami and Abigail Reyes, UC Irvine, along with Verano Place Housing, Verano Place Residents' Council and Verano Garden