A landscape of interactions: Sustainable land use from farm to forest to fiction

Plan Author

  • Kristen Thompson, 2019

Fields of Concentration

Faculty Sponsors

Outside Evaluator

  • Joy Ackerman, Antioch University New England


The essay and field guide components of my Plan are a result of my efforts to place my local work in a larger context ,and my efforts to balance theory with practice. For these two components, I created an edible, woody perennial landscape in and around the Marlboro College Victory Garden. In the essay, I look at agroforestry both at Marlboro College and in its larger context. Meanwhile, my field guide is meant to provide resources and inspiration for projects to move the future of the farm forward.The fiction component of my Plan is astory that takes place in the fictitious world of Dre, where characters are faced with an environmental crisis and its repercussions.


As of 2018, agroforestry research has continued to focus on environmental benefits, but with a focus on climate change. For example, in the Central Rift Valley of Ethiopia, Tesfaye Shiferaw Sida, et al. studied the possibility of using agroforestry with ​Faidherbia albida​ trees and found that this approach may provide an affordable means of adapting to heat and moisture stress from climate change. Specifically, ​Faidherbia albida​ trees increased soil N and water use efficiency, along with decreasing heat stress. As a result, crop yields increased significantly.

In order to ensure the long-term sustainability of a community garden it is necessary to, again, consider the social factors at play in addition to the ecological ones. To do this, I expanded my research into sociological discourse around organizations. The primary goal in reviewing this literature was to understand how I might effectively help transfer knowledge and responsibility for care and use of the Victory Garden edible and medicinal perennials to the Marlboro College community. Key themes that I pursued in this research focused especially on organizational memory and factors which are key to the long-term sustainability of community gardens.

A profound quietness filled the wood whose roots run through both worlds. Though it was night, the moon and stars shone so brightly that much could be discerned in the dark. On a low hanging bow of the Great Tree, the leaves yellowed and browned in abundance. The Tree moaned and creaked as if being blown by some monstrous wind, but the air was heavy and still. No song of bird or insect sounded; it seemed the whole wood held its breath. And indeed it would be so, for the Tree dominated the wood, each of its branches as vast as the oldest trees therein. The pain that gripped the Tree could not be escaped. The squirrels stood still, staring at the bows and seeming to ask, will the Parent wake? Surely the Tree could not sleep through a disturbance such as this.


I remember the moments of shared support the most: my friends and I bringing food to each other, talking through our ideas and process, and helping each other go over copy edits; holding community gardening events for my landscaping project and seeing everyone stepping up to help and teach one another about the planting process; etc.

I think the most interesting part of my Plan is the balancing acts between theory and practice; science and art; and large-scale vs. local foci. The inspiration for my Plan was my passion for sustainable solutions to environmental crises, as well as my love of plant life. I hope to continue to study and work in fields related to environmental sustainability.