Exploring the Development of Gardening Identity in College Students: Project “Aggies Grow Veggies” at UC Davis
As food insecurity affects 42% of students across UC campuses, the UC administration has launched various food and housing security initiatives. Among these are programs to encourage vegetable gardening in students. However, as knowledge-driven strategies are sometimes limited in creating long-lasting behavior change, this study seeks to better understand, through the lens of identity development, the complex matrix of social- and cultural-factors that affect gardening interest. This research followed 14 of the 20 UC Davis college students in a 6-week virtual gardening workshop series. All participants attended weekly workshops and received free kits and mentorship to garden from home. This mixed-method research included surveys, interviews, and workshop assignments geared to understand how various identity resources mediate students’ gardening identities and how gardening connects with other personal identities. Findings highlight the importance of relational resources as gateways for greater access and utilization of material and ideational resources. The network of identity resources makes practice-linked identities available to participants through the dialogic, self-other relations embedded in active participation. This study suggests that effective gardening and nutrition education programs will foster interaction among gardening and individuals’ varied sociocultural identities and interests. Further studies can build on this research to evaluate the impacts of gardening identity on their long-term gardening practice, food literacy, and overall health.