Community Engagement: An End in Itself

Neith Little is the Urban Agriculture Extension Educator for Baltimore City. Her role is to help urban farmers learn what they need to better achieve their goals through one-on-one technical assistance, workshops, field days, written resources, and applied research.

We had the opportunity to get connected to Neith through the local Maryland agriculture community. Featured in our May issue of En Root, Neith shared with readers the importance of listening in making real impact in communities.

We've taken some time to ask Neith about her most significant life events and lessons as she continues to build communities through her own professional journey.

Tell us about the most significant moment or turning point in your career or professional journey.

Part of my role as a local agricultural Extension Agent is to do what we call "farm visits." Ostensibly, the purpose is for me to visit farmers in my area to advise them on their farming practices and help troubleshoot any production or business challenges they might be facing. But I am always so grateful for what I learn from the farmers on these visits. It's a real privilege to get to walk the land with so many different caretakers of it and listen to them talk about how they do their work.

How has this experience impacted your career or your outlook?

I am at heart a shy person. I never intended to end up in such a social-oriented career! But I get a lot of satisfaction out of feeling like I'm fulfilling a role in the community. And where I grew up, the local Extension Agent was a community figure you knew you could go to with certain problems. I feel really grateful to have the chance to fill that role in the community where I am now.

If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?

It took me a long time to realize that there's no one in charge somewhere who knows how the world works. We're all just bumbling along doing the best we can figure out to do.

What are some words of wisdom that you would offer students exploring the possibility of an immersive professional experience?

Listen.

What is your favorite quote?

I love a lot of Emerson quotes, but the quote that has given me the most helpful advice about community engagement is by Kant: “Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means but always at the same time as an end.”

What's next? What are your next steps toward growth in 2019?

I've moved around a lot in my life. I'm working hard to make this the place I get to stay, and I'm feeling hopeful about that.

Looking to get more involved in your local ag community? Explore what it takes to be an urban farm and check out the 2019 Cultivate Baltimore Workshop Series! The next session is on June 12th.