Plant Something! Seed as citations and other means of cultivating ecological community literacies

Stories, like seeds, can, under the right conditions, grow and bloom and nourish and connect us.

In this paper, I also use the term seeds to signify the use of embedded links rather than formal academic citation.

And, I will propose, gardening with our students and community members allows us to create spaces that tell stories about and enact the possibilities of better futures.

Stories as Seeds

Building reciprocal relationships by working together
Della Femina Restaurant 1993-2011

What are we doing with our time?

Seeds as a metaphor for embedded links rather than formal academic citation.
  • Conventional citation practices in college writing--especially FYC--deflect attention from deep, careful reading and they are not properly matched to the audiences and purposes of FYC. (Moore, Serviss, and Rodrigue “Writing from Sources, Writing From Sentences,” The Citation Project 2010)
  • In the 2008 Citation Project study "Writing From Sentences;" Moore, Rodrigue, and Serviss conclude: "Instead of focusing on students’ citation of sources, educators should attend to the more fundamental question of how well students understand their sources and whether they are able to write about them without appropriating language from the source."
  • Embedded links offer a convenient means by which students may cite sources that better match their audiences and purposes, and using them save times for more careful, deep reading and thinking.
  • This also makes more time for ideological, cultural and material work that address the pressing needs of the end of the anthropocene. (Lynch 2012)
  • According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, 2,652,584 students started college in 2017.
  • If 1/2 take college comp, that's 326, 292 students.
  • If 25 students are in each class, we have 53,051 sections of writing
  • If ½ assign research papers, that's 26,525.84 sections with 663,146 students writing research papers (Hood).
  • If 30 minutes of class time is devoted to formatting citations, that' s 13,262.92 hours or 552.62 days.
  • If each student spends 30 minutes outside of class on formatting citations that's 332,573 hours or 13,857 days.
  • If each teacher spends 5 minutes per student on citation feedback that's 2,302 days or 55,262 hours
  • For a collective total of 401,097 hours OR 16,711 days OR 45 years.
  • This is a conservative estimate that excludes the labor of writing center and library staff as well as time spent on the prior to college and in the second semester of college and beyond.

At minimum, that's a lifetime of work each year!

School children are hungry.


College students are hungry.


Faculty are hungry.



Garden Based Writing

Communicating that a better world is possible + enacting a better world.
  • The apocalyptic turn in composition studies urges us to address material needs such as climate change, economic inequality, and hunger and to engage in the cultural work to prepare for the future (Lynch College English 2012 ).
  • Community writing projects--especially garden-based writing--offer a means by which we may address material needs and learn more about our neighbors (Harris, Minnis, and Somerset, 2014; Williams and Dixon, 2013; Blair, D. (2009)
  • The material changes we create via garden-based writing communicate the possibilities of better worlds--alternatives to neoliberalism and western modernity.
Garden-Based Writing at the Troy School.

FYS at Bates Fall 2018

Primary Framing Texts

Community Partners

The Nutrition Center at St Mary's (formerly Lots to Gardens)
The Garden at St Mary's Nutrition Center, Lewiston, Maine.
Harvesting vegetables for delivery with the Fall Gardeners and Eliza Huber-Weiss from The Nutrition Center.
The PLOT: Bates's New Garden
Working in the PLOT Garden on Campus
Josie Gillett's Thesis Research
Helping senior Josie with her thesis research about the Three Sisters guild planting system by harvesting vegetables.
Whiting Farm, Auburn, Maine
Fall clean-up at Whiting Farm
Classroom Activities
Writing workshops in campus
Cooking and Writing with the Fall Gardeners at the Nutrition Center
Working and playing together at the Nutrition Center.
Hosting the Fall Gardeners Bates
Writing Workshops with the Fall Gardeners at Bates

Assignment: Using Garrett Broad's communication theory to analyze the communication efforts of a community partner.

Assignment: creating a document to serve a community partner

Pamphlet created for St Mary's Nutrition Center to educator high school students and their parents as well as teachers and staff at the Lewiston High School about the education programs the Nutrition Center Offers.

Assignment: eportfolios, presentations, and final reflections

Final reflection:

"Participating in the First Year Seminar Cultivating Social Justice in Community Gardens has provided me with a wide range of skills, from making applesauce and playing “big booty” with the Fall Gardeners in St. Mary’s Nutrition Center of Lewiston, ME to learning about permaculture and food injustice from Garrett Broad (author of More Than Just Food). I have enjoyed being part of a small classroom in which I felt accepted, confident, and therefore willing to grow as a learner and student. With the help of my professor Stephanie, my classmates, Eliza from the Nutrition Center, and Ruth, my PWSA, I have grown as a writer and community member in both the Lewiston and global community."

"With the help of Stephanie and my classmates, I have had the opportunity to expand my skills as a writer so that I can share my message in a more effective manner. Through examining the logic, character, and emotions of authors such as Caitlin Flanagan (author of Cultivating Failure) and evaluating the message behind the documentary Can You Dig This, I have learned that my own logic, character, and emotions deeply affect what the reader thinks of me and my argument."

"In addition to growing as a writer, I have also expanded my horizons as a community member. My knowledge about social justice has expanded greatly, and I now know that social justice and food insecurity are not only issues that affect the pockets of poorest communities; they can also affect one’s mental health and actions (such as increased risk behaviors) in life. I highlighted key takeaways that I have had throughout this course in my Reflections document, including knowledge gained from authors Julie Lythcott-Haims and Garrett Broad, and learning about topics such as Permaculture, food injustice, and more. In discussing Julie Lythcott-Haims’ memoir Real American, I learned about the power society holds in the way it enforces strict stereotypes of people who may look “different,” forcing them to form their own self-identity in a world that can be cruel. I learned how North American communities rejected Lythcott-Haims’ status as mixed race, and how this rejection caused Lythcott-Haims to feel isolated and alone. Garrett Broad, the author of More Than Just Food, taught me about the importance of creating food security and working towards food justice, and gave me great examples of how this goal could be worked toward, specifically, by employing youth leadership.

This new knowledge, from both Garrett Broad and Julie Lythcott-Haims, has enriched my ability to work with people from backgrounds that are different from my own, including the Fall Gardeners. In the past, I have felt nervous and awkward around people who come from a different socio-economic class than I do. However, Lythcott-Haims and Broad’s research showed me that while I have no need to feel guilt over this, I also have a responsibility to help others who are not in the same comfortable economic situation as I am. With this in mind, I felt more comfortable working with the Fall Gardeners, because I know that we have a common goal we hope to achieve (food security) in Lewiston, ME. I have learned that regardless of background, people who are different from one another can still share meaningful relationships, ones in which both people feel respected and included."

Final Reflection

"One of my favorite days of class was the Tuesday it didn’t rain. Outside of the brick classroom and in the hot sun, we harvested the “good” and “bad” tomatoes. I focused on the bad, the rotten, the discolored, the broken open, and those attracting the bugs.

I didn’t think I would be gardening in my first semester of college. While first-year seminars were always marketed on college tours as these cool niche topics, I still pictured myself in a classroom being lectured at by a professor on writing techniques I already knew. A gardening class seemed surreal. “[It was] so Bates,” my friends and I joked the summer before I left home.

I started off by gently placing the tomatoes in the bucket with everyone else, but as we all grew more confident, we began to throw them in from greater and greater distances.

I felt I never really benefited from peer review in the past. I wouldn't get helpful feedback or useful critiques, and I'd struggle with balancing being nice and supportive while giving critical suggestions. When we first peer-reviewed our literacy narratives, by then I had nailed down the difference between Amelia, Abby, Alix, and Ceci, but I still felt uncomfortable passing Ceci my first draft, not looking forward to going through the same steps I had in the years before. Over time, through practicing it so much, I’ve become much more comfortable with the process and learned new strategies of balancing my feedback. Formally "setting the agenda" has relieved a lot of stress for me and made me more open to sharing my work. As the class progressed, I gladly shared my DYO and Part A projects with Ceci to get her input and perspective.

Frequently, the tomatoes missed their mark and didn’t go in the bucket. I’d have to walk all the way back over to where they had landed, pick them back up from the ground, and readjust my aim for my next shot. When they went in, sometimes they hit the back of the bucket like a basketball on a backboard and the tomato guts and seeds would seep slowly down to the bottom.

College writing has opened back a lot of doors I thought I had to close in high school. Through my literacy narrative, I grew as a writer by trying new ways of organizing and formatting my stories. I was inspired by Julie Lythcott-Haims's use of line breaks and blank space. I learned more about how varying sentence structure could apply to my writing and how to not overuse commas. The assignment itself, evaluating how I saw myself as a reader and writer, was really interesting to be able to take the time and reflect on myself as I entered my first college writing course. Through the process of revision, for the literacy narrative and beyond, I saw new intricacies to the ways I write and how small changes and shifting my perspective can go a long way.

For the Design Your Own project and Part A of the final project, I had to throw out much of my beloved rulebook for writing. The process was overwhelming at times, but necessary for me to see which of my existing strategies were actually helpful or holding me back. I learned useful skills through the process of starting with an idea or some claims and then seeing how I could narrow my scope and build my argument in the most effective way. I also learned about the new tools I have at my disposal for developing projects. The sources in the library databases, feedback from peer review and conferences, and trying new ways of visually seeing different ideas like through sticky notes were all very useful. Overall I found that being able to adapt to different situations strengthened my writing.

Everyone in the “Bad Tomatoes” group worked to be conscious of one another so we wouldn’t block each other’s game-winning shot. Alix laughed when I would tragically miss the bucket, as we had made it another light-hearted competition, but we would congratulate when the other would pick up a truly rotten tomato.

While I grew as a student inside the classroom, I learned even more outside as a community member of Bates and Lewiston/Auburn. I saw more of my place in the community, inherently privileged for being a white Bates student. Through traveling throughout L/A and drawing out maps of specific places, I felt more like a member of a community beyond just Bates. At The Plot I started thinking more about where our food comes in as well as how we could apply permaculture principles towards it for my DYO Project. I felt more aware of the Bates campus from seeing the garden and from seeing another side of Commons, that gave me a deeper appreciation for it and my meals. I saw how our class as a small community and unit could function together whether collaborating on group projects, harvesting vegetables, or scrubbing bins.

I learned a lot about communication as a new Bates student through working in this small class and specifically with the Fall Gardeners. I started off not knowing anything about them and they were shy when interacting with us. I learned that through asking simple questions, drawing, and being open and supportive could all be useful tools for learning about their lives and generating stories. I thought this was also useful as a first year in general acclimating to a new community.

While the good tomatoes were carried to Commons, the bad tomatoes were used for compost -- ultimately contributing to the health of the tomatoes to come. My work in this class was like the tomatoes, some good, some bad, all created with a purpose.

I liked this class for how interdisciplinary it could be. I could connect the material in all of my classes together and frame information in different ways from my different perspectives. This class hasn’t been just a gardening class. Community gardening, social justice, and writing are all each such multifaceted ideas with complex issues, and I hope to continue unpacking them in the future.

Right now though, I hope to continue using different types of genre, organization, and formatting in my writing. I want to keep making connections between my classes to understand and apply concepts to enhance my understanding. I want to stay connected to the L/A community by going to the gardens, Whiting Farm, and Nutrition Center when I can, while also to the community our class created together this semester."

Lessons learned + next steps

  • I tried to do too much in one semester.
  • I would like to have a three-semester sequence, so in the first semester the college students and high school students get to know each other by gardening, cooking, sharing stories and meals, and engaging in informal writing, such as mapping.
  • In the second semester, we would introduce more formal writing into our community projects with the high school students. and the college students would take on more responsibility for designing garden-based education projects that could be implemented via our internship program, summer research opportunities, or independent studies.
  • My larger goal is for students to develop thesis projects related to do this work, using a variation of the framework for evaluating garden-based education developed by Williams and Dixon (2013)

Images from the Short Term Class that preceded and informed the FYS

Writing by the Puddle on campus

Writing in Kennedy Park- downtown, Lewiston

Generating material and building community by mapping

Arts and crafts and writing

Headline poetry prompts

Transplanting tomatoes in the greenhouse on campus

The after-school program at Geiger Elementary School

Garden educator Rebecca Dugan (and Bates graduate) at Geiger

Planting seedings- Geiger

Nature bracelets- Geiger

Garden journals-Geiger

Multi-sensorial writing-Geiger

Final celebration- Geiger

The Hoop House- Falmouth

Planting rice- Falmouth

Mark Melnicove- whose students started the gardens at Falmouth 20 years ago

Justin Derry- garden director, Falmouth

Gardening- Falmouth

Writing together with Falmouth High School students

Whiting Farm, Auburn

Kim Finnerty- director of Whiting Farm

Elmer Whiting, and Melissa- Whiting Farm

The Nutrition Center

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