Interested in growing fresh food and healing your local community? Yes, there’s a class for that.
It’s an environmental science course offered at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, Regenerative Design: Principles, Processes and Methods. The course focuses on creating sustainable, fresh, healthy food for the community and mimicking naturally occurring ecosystem processes to do so. The Peeples’ Peace Garden—a course resource—is less than a mile from UTC near the intersection of 12th Street and Peeples’ Street.
Environmental studies and Adjunct Professor Christina Gibson teaches the course. When she’s not in the classroom, she’s also a consultant, arborist and herbalist, specializing in urban ecology and herbal medicine.
“My background is in ecological design, urban forestry, and permaculture systems, so I’m excited to teach the various concepts and practices involved in regenerating land and stitching ecosystems together, which is the essential work of our time as we confront climate change and its corresponding challenges,” Gibson said.
Students in the Regenerative Design class will be doing hands-on-work to maintain an edible garden in an urban setting. Students will interact with community partner organizations and explore social and environmental issues through real-life exposure. The course enables UTC and partner organizations to work directly with an underresourced local community.
“It is a fulfilling opportunity to be able to witness a garden grow from the ground up. My point of view on the 12th and Peeples’ unhoused encampment alongside its permaculture garden has completely transformed in a matter of months,” said Ellen Getter, a Hendersonville, Tennessee, native and May 2023 graduate with a degree in exercise and health sciences.
Gibson also will teach a new course in fall 2023: Urban Forests. It’s designed to teach students to strategize and protect the urban tree canopy. Both the Regenerative Design and Urban Forests courses both have openings for the fall semester.
In early 2023, the UTC Walker Center for Teaching and Learning awarded a High-Impact Practices Grant to fund creation of the garden and two local organizations are working with UTC to make the garden happen. One is Help Right Here, a group focused on survival support and housing assistance. The other, the City Farms Grower Coalition works to provide food and “food justice” to low-income neighborhoods.
The Peeples’ Peace Garden aims to help the community and make a positive difference in people’s lives, and UTC environmental science students are helping achieve that goal.