Josie Walker is passionate about sustainable agriculture, food justice, and the local food movement. While she’s a vocal advocate today, that wasn’t always the case. When she was in fifth grade, she kept her interest in subsistence farming to herself because “…at 10 or 11, that’s not popular.” She didn’t get seriously interested in horticulture as a career until she dropped out of graduate school at Winston-Salem State University (she has a B.S. in mathematics from UNC-Charlotte) and volunteered for the university’s new community garden project — Simon’s Green Acre. She was hooked and knew she wanted a career working with plants.
While at Simon’s Green Acre, Josie was thrilled to learn about North Carolina A&T State University’s new program — “Urban and Community Horticulture.” She enrolled, quickly found her niche, and excelled in the program. She became involved with the North Carolina 10% Campaign as the local food ambassador to increase awareness of local food issues among students at the university. She completed another Bachelors of Science degree — this time in agricultural and environmental systems with a concentration in urban and community horticulture.
Josie became the Eastern North Carolina project coordinator for FaithLands, a coalition-led initiative that supports faith communities in making lands available for sustainable, agroecological farming, especially to those in society marginalized by virtue of class, race, gender, economic status, and other factors. She believes that:
“ … faith communities can be integral to the local food movement to address food justice and food sovereignty by turning the land that they have been blessed to steward into productive farmland using sustainable and regenerative practices, especially in rural areas where churches and other communities of faith are the anchor institutions.”
A dynamo of energy and enthusiasm for horticulture and educating the public, Josie became the North Carolina field organizer for the Black Church Food Security Network. Her focus was on gardening and garden education for churches and their members. She tells us that, like so many organizations, the global pandemic altered her work and the work of the organization. Never one to stand-by as things change, Josie is now community garden manager/coordinator for the New Hope Church of God in Christ and serves as a board member for both Common Ground of Eastern North Carolina and North Carolina Community Garden Partners.
Seed Your Future asked Josie what advice she would give to young people considering a career working with plants. She shared:
“I would advise anyone considering the world of horticulture that they need to figure out what parts they like the best. What excites them? Head in that direction. I figured out that I am more interested in vegetables as opposed to ornamentals and that being able to feed oneself was a huge motivator for me. Although finding jobs that appeal to my interests has been difficult at times, they always seem to appear right when I need them, so please don’t give up, but also don’t be afraid to be an entrepreneur. The more freely you give, the more freely people will give back to you.”
And what’s next for Josie? On top of everything else, she’s pursuing a certificate in garden-based education. She just created a class for parents and children in the apartment complex near the Common Ground Food Park. Her hope is that this class will be the first of many and that she can get the residents to start container gardens and get the children excited about plants, growing, and self-sufficiency.
We love the inspiring work Josie is doing! For this, we’ve selected her as our latest Plant Champion.