Posted April 6, 2012

Faces of Temple: Anne Preston

Name: Anne Preston

Year: Junior

School: College of Liberal Arts

Majors: Geography and Urban Studies, Environmental Studies

Home town: Silver Spring, Md.

Recent honors: Became the first Temple student ever to win two prestigious and competitive national scholarships: a Truman and a Udall.

Why I chose Temple: "Every year, more and more students at my high school (in suburban Maryland outside Washington, D.C.) were going to Temple. In many ways, my high school is a lot like Temple: it's big, it's diverse and it has a lot of programs. Those are similarities that I liked. Also, for someone like me who wanted to be in a city, Philadelphia is both close — and pretty cool. When I came to Philadelphia I saw all the gardens and art projects and non-profit community programs. At Temple, it seemed like there were a lot of different opportunities to get involved in community service projects in classes, in student organizations and off campus. I saw living in North Philadelphia and studying in the city as the space for creativity and action. And that's what I found here."

Transformative moment: "When I was a freshman, a friend from my high school who's a student at Fox wrote a business plan for a non-profit called the Urban Tree Connection that does urban greening projects in Philadelphia. He entered it into Temple's Be Your Own Boss Bowl business plan competition and got second place. That was the seed money that was used to create an urban garden on a vacant lot in West Philadelphia. But they needed someone to do the farming. That was me.

"Starting that April, I biked over to West Philly every day after class. At the beginning, there was a lot to do: digging, spreading fresh soil, germinating seeds, transplanting plants, rallying kids in the neighborhood to help plant, weeding, watering, flyering door-to-door about farm stands and cooking classes and garden clubs, picking up trash, managing volunteers from local churches. It was the start of an urban farm business that now employs two people, runs a farmer's market and a flea market, has an after-school program for kids and produces enough food to feed 50 families.

"I'm not doing this to build a farm that would build my livelihood; I'm doing this to create a farm that's a resource for the community and that would be sustainable in the future. It's in somebody else's neighborhood — it has to reflect their visions to survive in the long term.

"This farm project has given me a lot of organizational skills — how to lead a group, how to run a meeting, how to run kids programs — that will help me develop other projects like and build a bigger system of farms in Philadelphia. I'm really hoping to do that — once I have less homework. People talk a lot about a global food shortage. The issue isn't that we don't have enough land, it's that we're not using it in the right way. This urban farm has shown me how a project on a small scale, on a local level, can address those kinds of problems."