Mark Clarke grew up on farmland outside of Asheville, N.C., that has been in his family for 100 years.
Name a job on a farm – fixing fences, raising livestock, picking apples – he’s done it.
Along the way, the 2011 Eve Carson Scholar says, he learned “the joys, sorrows and frustrations of working in the dirt.”
As a member of the Student Garden Co-op, he was among the founders of the Carolina Campus Community Garden (CCCG). The garden grows fresh, organic, inexpensive produce for low-wage UNC staff members and strengthens community among staff and students.
The impetus to build the garden came from UNC employees’ growing awareness of the struggle of low-wage workers to feed their families, says Claire Lorch, CCCG director.
Clarke, an English major, was one of two juniors to win the scholarship, established in 2008 in memory of Eve Carson, UNC’s 2007-08 student body president, who died that year. One of what Carson called her “Big Ideas” as president was to create a merit-based scholarship for UNC juniors.
The award funds half the cost of attending Carolina in the senior year, plus $5,000 for a summer enrichment experience. Clarke’s goal for his summer experience was “to build authentic community and individual growth around the labor of food production, preparation and consumption.”
He worked with Lorch and the N.C. Botanical Garden to bring local at-risk teens to volunteer in the garden. He hopes this will “provide the participants with a sense of self-worth and an understanding of their own ability to contribute to and receive help from a community.”
After a study abroad semester in Mendoza, Argentina, Clarke volunteered with the T. Borda Community Garden in Buenos Aires, which is located on the grounds of a psychiatric hospital.
“I hope to see the way a more established garden works to incorporate people from different walks of life into a coherent community with a similar goal.”
Ultimately, Clarke plans to bring that experience, and some polished Spanish-speaking skills, back to Chapel Hill and the CCCG.