Connecting Health and Horticulture
“People have improved health outcomes when they are connected to nature, the food system and plants. I’m very passionate about that and connecting people to their place,” said Melissa Tinling, who earned a Master’s of Public Health from UNC in 2012 and will complete her Master’s in Horticultural Science at NC State University this spring.
It’s this view that has moved Tinling to be involved in a variety of local food access and garden projects, including the recent edible plantings on the greenway at Centennial Campus at NCSU, which is part of the larger Capital Area Greenway System, as well as designing and planting a pollinator garden on campus, and helping Passage Home in Raleigh design a rain garden and plantings around its fruit trees.
The edible greenways project, which AHA coordinated with NSCU staff on after winning a City of Raleigh Urban Agriculture Award to fund it, is a first in Wake County. Under Horticulture Professor Anne Spafford’s leadership, Tinling and other classmates completed the first planting last fall, which included strawberries and blueberries, goji berry, elderberry, several fruit trees (plum, cherry, persimmon, fig and pomegranate), and herbs. This spring there will be a second phase of planting. (Learn more about the greenways planting from Spafford at Dig In! on March 4.)
“The value of edible greenways is primarily educational. Realistically, there won’t be enough food to truly supplement or provide food for many people, but it’s a way to connect people to their environment and their place through food, and it’s a fun and celebratory way to do that,” Tinling said. “Food literacy is low in our society right now, even though we’re highly educated. Edible plantings are a way to show people what a fruit, for example, looks like on a plant and helps them to feel more connected to the environment,” Tinling said.
Maryland is home to Tinling, although she’s been in the Triangle for about 10 years. We can hope that when she completes her master’s this spring, she’ll stay in the area so that we can continue to benefit from her expertise!