Faculty Perspective: Bringing Our Community Back to the Land

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Akilah Siti Easter is the Department Chair of Urban Agriculture at Olive-Harvey College and a tenured Assistant Professor with City Colleges of Chicago. She is an alumna and former division-one athlete at Chicago State University, holding a BS in Biological Sciences and a MS in Applied Physiology.

Akilah has assisted with the development of the Applied Cannabis Studies curriculum pathway at CCC—authoring courses in Cannabis Sciences, Cannabis Processing, Cannabis Field Practicum, and Entering the Cannabis Industry. She continues to develop the curriculum with emerging pathways in Urban Agriculture and Community Advocacy.

The Urban Agriculture Department (UA) at Olive-Harvey College is approaching its one-year anniversary and we have had tremendous growth and development of our courses, student population and partnerships across Chicago and the nation. We are the first Urban Agriculture Department at City Colleges of Chicago and hope to create a great foundation for our sister colleges. 

The history of Native Americans, African Americans and People of Color have a significant linkage to Urban Agriculture in the Americas. With the recent opening of our campus greenhouse, we are excited about the opportunity to grow food from native lands that represent the diverse culture represented by the Southside of Chicago and our student population. The UA Department is focused on social equity through the growth of various plants and activities that bring our community back to the land. 

My goal as the Department Chair is to offer a strong academic curriculum to empower our students with the knowledge of plant science, environmental advocacy, and how to take back the land in their community. This passion was rooted in me at a very young age. As a 4th generation farmland owner, the power of growing your food and understanding the environment is a skill set that cannot be taken away from our culture or our students’ educational experience. 

With the combination of academic rigor, innovation, and unique educational opportunities for our community and students, the UA department will grow our offerings while relying on our roots of culture and perseverance. It is an honor to be the driving force of this development, and I look forward to the challenges and the victories that the department twill encounter. Happy anniversary to the Urban Agriculture Department, we look to many more years of celebration!

Olive-Harvey College is hosting a Cannabis Health Sciences Symposium on May 12th. To learn more and RSVP, go here: Cannabis Health Symposium at OHC – City Colleges of Chicago Events (ccc.edu)