Getting at the root of concerns

Can social justice be achieved through farming? Jessica Kruger ’17 believes so and has earned a $10,000 Projects for Peace grant to find out.

Kruger, a psychology major, won the award for her proposal to establish a community farm aimed at relieving hunger, providing at-risk youth with meaningful work and building connections among residents in her hometown, Framingham, Mass.

“I feel unimaginably excited for the opportunity, grateful to Wheaton and Projects for Peace, and, most of all, motivated to bring this project to life,” said Kruger, who admits that when she applied for the grant it seemed like a lofty goal but she had to try because she believes so strongly in her project.

“I hope that the farm will significantly increase the number of meals our partner organization will be able to provide to the homeless and hungry population of my hometown; and that the young people who work on the farm realize that making a difference in their community is well within their reach,” she said.

Projects for Peace, an initiative open to undergraduates at the American colleges and universities in the Davis United World College Scholars Program, encourages students to create projects that innovatively focus on reconciliation, building understanding and breaking down barriers that cause conflict in an effort to foster peace. Proposals judged to be the most promising and feasible are funded at $10,000 each.

The late Kathryn Wasserman Davis, an accomplished internationalist and philanthropist, established Projects for Peace on her 100th birthday. She was the mother of Wheaton alumna Diana Davis Spencer ’60.

Kruger will use the grant to establish the Framingham Community Farm, which this year will include a vegetable garden plot with raised beds and an apiary with three beehives. The farm will be a community service placement for youth who are referred by Middlesex County courts and local group homes, and a place for them to interact with area residents.

She stresses that this is just a first step, as she seeks to make the farm a sustainable model that can be widely replicated. She already has established partnerships with five organizations in the area, including the hunger relief organization Daniel’s Table and the Massachusetts Trial Court Community Service Program. She also will have the help of a local farmer and a caretaker throughout the growing season.

Kruger said her Wheaton education and experiences contributed to the successful development of this project idea.

“Wheaton let me claim my education exactly how I wanted,” she said. “While I majored in psychology, I also spent a lot of time taking courses in anthropology, Hispanic studies and English, among other disciplines.

“All of my professors put great emphasis on honing the craft of thinking. For every one thing I learned in class, I became aware of a hundred other things I had to explore. These were the most valuable aspects of my Wheaton education: the humbling discovery of all there is to know, and the skill to think about the world in complex ways that allow us to make it better. This is why I was able to be bold enough to pitch this abstract idea in the first place, and why I will now be able to make it a reality for my town.”