By Stephanie Mork, Photojournalism Intern
As Open Farms expands to two brand new plots this year, there’s a greater need to introduce the organic farming project to neighbors near the new sites in Phillips and North Minneapolis. That’s where Laura Abril comes in.
Laura is a rising senior studying economics at Macalester College in St. Paul, and she comes to Open Arms through a unique program: the Chuck Green Fellowship.
The fellowship, focused on analyzing and addressing community-based issues, is awarded to 12 Macalester students per year. “Fellows partner with a nonprofit in a collaborative relationship with a 10-week project, usually examining social justice in some form or looking at how nonprofits function in general,” said Laura.
Laura was delighted to be chosen for this competitive position because the opportunity aligns with her long-term goals. “I was really excited when I heard I was chosen because I want to work in nonprofits after graduation,” she said.
Laura found Open Arms through a roommate who had volunteered here, and after meeting with staff about a potential project, she was hooked. “The attitude and tone of the organization is different than others that I communicated with,” Laura noted. “I could relate with the personal and ethical morals of Open Arms, which got me really excited to be here.”
The Chuck Green Fellowship is enabling Laura to look at how to make the Open Farms a better community space this summer. “I want to look at the demographics of the community and learn about the people who actually surround the farms and how we can ethically engage with them,” she explained. “We can make the space be seen as inclusive instead of exclusive by informing the community of what we are doing and how they can be involved.”
One way Laura is looking at increasing community engagement with the farm sites is to participate in National Night Out, an annual nationwide block party event designed to encourage community members to get to know their neighborhoods. On August 2 Laura will help host a gathering at the Open Farms plot in North Minneapolis, a great opportunity for neighborly outreach. “We can represent ourselves in the neighborhood and facilitate something that the community members are looking for,” she said.
Laura has been an asset to Open Arms this summer, bringing new ideas and a critical eye to her work. She said, “I love that I can take an economic lens that most people think is only about money and instead examine larger social problems and use it as a mode for studying life.”