Alumni Spotlight: Carly Sharp ’19

Carly Sharp | Alumni Spotlight

Date: March 22, 2021

TerraCorps member, Gardening the Community, Springfield, MA

The profuse hands-on opportunities Sharp took outside of the classroom have led to her current position striving for food justice. In her current role she works to build healthy and equitable communities through youth development programs, urban agriculture and sustainable living initiatives.

Did any of your experiences on campus lead you to your current role?

My experiences on campus had a huge influence on the route to my current position with TerraCorps. Although I didn’t know anyone at the first volunteer workday I attended at the University of Michigan’s Campus Farm, I felt a sense of community at the farm which has shaped my enthusiasm for sustainable food systems work. I began attending the weekly workdays as a volunteer and, by the next season, I started working at the farm as a student manager. 

Over the span of four years, I gained hands-on experience with organic food production and the responsibilities of maintaining a self-governing organization. Additionally, through working with D-Town Farm and Oakland Avenue Urban Farm as SFSI’s Detroit Urban Agriculture Intern, I learned the empowering nature of building community with neighbors, grassroots organizations, and volunteers to address food insecurity. Furthermore, I saw how food insecurity is perpetuated by historical power structures.

After graduating from Michigan and before applying to graduate school, I wanted to continue to contribute to the critical work of education, collaboration, and advocacy around food within nonprofit organizations, so I applied to do a service year through TerraCorps. From one farm to the next, it has been incredible to see communities working together to rebuild our food system based on self-determination, healing, and a genuine connection to the land!

What is one piece of advice you would give students interested in pursuing a career in food systems?

From what I have learned over the years, and with much insight from my partner, who is also very active in the food systems world, I would give this advice: Before engaging in community work, be aware of your own privileges, the social and political background of the community you’re working in, and the community’s own aspirations so that you’re not entering a space where you have not been directly invited or welcomed. Recognize that food system work is holistic and that understanding perspectives in all aspects of the food system is important. From harvesting a tomato off the vine to preparing a dish to share — the environmental and social impacts of food are all interconnected! Finally, if you want to get hands-on experience being a producer in the food system on campus, volunteer at the Campus Farm it’s a great place to learn!