Youth helping to plant a community garden in Macon, Georgia.

Meet the K880 Emerging City Champions 2017: Morgan and Spud

It’s been almost a year since these urban innovators have launched projects to make their cities more engaged, safe, healthy and fun. Find out who they are, what they’ve created and what they’ve learned.

by Emma Jones, Jonathan von Ofenheim

Morgan Wright

Macon, Georgia

Meet the Champ: Morgan Wright has called the college town of Macon, Georgia, home for over 20 years. Not only was she born and raised in Macon, but she went to university there too. So when she decided to build a community garden in Macon, she put it at the centre line of an affluent neighbourhood, where most professors live, and a very poor neighbourhood.

“I want it to be a space that encourages communication and unity.”

Morgan’s innovation story: Morgan didn’t expect much of a turnout to plant crops in her community garden: “I was thinking, okay, I’ll have to drag my friends out to help me,” she said.

Then the trucks started pulling up. “I just had so many male teenagers come out […] The fact that I was actually able to tap into that market, that really shocked me, and it’s actually been the most rewarding.”

The garden called Let’s Grow Macon started as a collection of raised beds behind a church in a neighbourhood she describes as a food desert. “You would have to get into a vehicle and ride pretty far away to get to the nearest grocery store,” she says.

The garden yields vegetables including collard greens, kale and carrots, which community members can take for free. Eventually, Morgan plans to set up a farmers market stand and sell the vegetables.

But Morgan’s goals go beyond a successful crop of veggies to share with the neighbourhood. “I want it to be a space that encourages communication and unity,” she says. “A safe haven for kids, teenagers, adults — a place where minds can just come together.”

Down the road, Morgan wants to eventually own her own land for the garden, ensuring it’s a permanent fixture in the community.

This community garden, says Morgan, will be a place where residents can learn how to cultivate more than strawberries and collard greens.

“You can learn how to cultivate different things,” she says. “And while you’re doing that, you know, you’re changing the community altogether.”

Spud Marshall

State College, Pennsylvania

Spud Marshall's project 'An awesome place to call home'

Check out to learn more about the project. (Photo via Meet at Trailhead)

Meet the Champ: Spud Marshall has lived in State College, Pennsylvania, for 12 years, since his first year of university. Now, he’s passionate about making the town “a more awesome place to call home” for other young people who might want to stick around.

Spud’s innovation story: State College is home to 40,000 students and 40,000 non-students. Marshall says despite the town’s cozy size, the campus community doesn’t mix much with the local population.

“Most students see State College as a four-year vacation without a beach,” he says. “Because people come and leave, they don’t have to pay attention to issues in the community. And if they do stay, they’re never excited. They say they ‘got stuck.’”

A long-time State College social entrepreneur, Spud’s many projects are dedicated to changing that. The latest project, called Meet at Trailhead, will be a building for artists, builders and changemakers in State College to connect around mutual interests, share ideas and make plans. The space will be a home for those who want to “get outside their own bubble” and change the status quo.

Still working to rent a venue, Spud and a community of founding members are prioritizing a location that will be accessible to both student and non-student communities. The space will be open all afternoon, every day, housing a guide that will connect people to groups and events they’re interested in.

The space will be totally run and directed by members, says Spud, adding his role is just to “shepard the thing forward.” Looking forward, Spud is most excited to see Meet at Trailheads become a gathering space for young people to innovate and take risks.

“I’m most curious to see how it legitimizes young energy in this town.”

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