Back to News

Service-Learning Students Help Ready Land for Community Farm

On Saturday, Sept. 17 students in Focused Inquiry Professor Joseph Cates' UNIV 211 "Food for Thought" service-learning course worked to clean up a creek and garden area in eastern Henrico County. The service is part of a larger farm-to-school urban agriculture program at Fairfield Middle School.

The area, known as Cornerstone Community Farm, will encompass four acres of unused adjacent school property and a tributary of the James River. The farm will help combat two critical local challenges – food insecurity and stormwater runoff – in a setting that promotes education and conservation-minded agricultural production.

A partnership between The Henricopolis Soil and Water Conservation District (HSWCD); the Community Food Collaborative; and Henrico County Public Schools, the project will allow VCU service-learning students to provide support, ranging from hands-on gardening to public education on the program and its benefits. Cornerstone Farm is the latest addition to an already-strong community collaboration involving a school garden and conservation education at Fairfield Middle School.

Awarded $50,000 by the National Association of Conservation Districts to promote urban agriculture conservation, HSWCD serves as a local guardian for fertile soil and clean water, promoting conservation among farming, residential and commercial communities, and classroom instruction to 7,000 children each year.

The Community Food Collaborative is a nonprofit community development organization that promotes health, wellness and environmental stewardship for all residents across the region through a network of urban farms and community education programs.

For more information, contact Nicole Anderson Ellis, associate professor in the Focused Inquiry Department, at

This article was updated on December 6, 2016 to reflect the name change of "Stony Run Community Farm" to "Cornerstone Community Farm."