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06/04/24 NINA WEITHORN ’24 IS THE 2024 GRADUATE NATIONAL OLMSTED SCHOLAR HONOR RECIPIENT

 

Congratulations to Nina Weithorn who is the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) 2024 National Olmsted Scholar recipient. Chosen by an independent jury, LAF announced the 94 exceptional student leaders honored as LAF Olmsted Scholars, including only two National Olmsted Scholar winners and six finalists. The financial award will fund Nina Weithorn’s project on the Allensworth Agricultural Experiment Station, which deals with food justice, soil remediation, and cultural resilience. 

 

Nina is a 2024 graduate of the Master of Landscape Architecture + Urbanism program at USC School of Architecture and holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies with a minor in social work from New York University. Before beginning her MLA+U degree at USC, Nina worked as a garden educator and collaborated on the establishment of food justice initiatives in Los Angeles, her hometown. She is passionate about soil remediation, agriculture, waste cycles, and community-based design. Nina plans to work at the intersection of agroecology, climate adaptation, and community engagement, developing frameworks to incorporate alternative food production models into landscape architecture. 

 

Nina is also the first student in the MLA program to have pursued a graduate certificate in geospatial technologies (GIS) through the university’s Spatial Sciences Institute. Last year she also won the Edward Lyons Pryce Scholarship which recognizes the important role Black landscape architects play in the profession. 

 

I think landscape architects are in a unique position to look at landscapes holistically. Especially in a time of climate emergency, there is a need for people who aren't overspecialized in a particular aspect of landscape, but rather look at the larger picture to understand the interplay of dynamic ecological and cultural systems,” says Nina, who exemplifies the strengths of an interdisciplinary approach.  

 

The nature of landscape architecture is inherently collaborative - we need to work with people across multiple fields - scientists, engineers, farmers, etc. to understand the complex and unprecedented climate crisis.” 

 

Throughout her two-year program, Nina worked with the town of Allensworth in Tulare County, California, to develop an agroecological farm to revitalize soils, create space for community food production, and provide resources on agroecology. Nina will use her award to continue her work on the Allensworth Agricultural Experiment Station (AAES), testing soil-building techniques inspired by African Dark Earth and cultivating climate-adapted and culturally significant crops in collaboration with Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities in Allensworth. She plans to share lessons from this project in the form of an Agroecological Landscape Design Toolkit inspired by Tuskegee’s Agricultural Bulletins, a place-based guide to transforming degraded landscapes into vibrant, food-producing ones. 

 

In her second year of the MLA program, Nina took the Community Design Workshop course in Allensworth, taught by Professor Alison Hirsch, who has been the primary advisor on Nina’s work in Allensworth. As a Black farmer herself – with her own urban farm in Los Angeles and with recent experience as a selected fellow training under Leah Penniman (author of Farming While Black) at Soul Fire Farm – Nina has created strong connections to the community leaders in Allensworth looking to re-establish the original town foundation in Black agrarian liberation.  

 

In the Advanced Design-Research studio, in which students develop their final thesis, Nina took the opportunity to develop a prototype plot, based off George Washington Carver’s Agricultural Experiment Station at Tuskegee Institute. With access to land on the community center property, Nina developed soil building techniques specific to the needs of the highly degraded ground in Allensworth.  

 

A primary focus for the town is their regenerative farm and training center for disadvantaged farmers. Nina became the lead on work on the future of the farm and then used the development of the site as her final thesis focus. As a result of her expertise in regenerative farming, as well as Afro-Indigenous farming techniques particularly honed during her fellowship at Soul Fire Farm, Allensworth Farm leadership continues to seek Nina’s advisement and has been eager to support her current research and project proposal.  

 

Her work with the Allensworth Progressive Association over the past two years will continue, as she plans for its transformation into an Agricultural Experiment Station that is rooted in the town’s original and renewed investment in establishing a “Tuskegee of the West.” Her work here will also provide a roadmap for many struggling rural communities to develop economic opportunities in this harsh landscape. 

 

Nina’s work and impact does not end there. She was a lead in the Test Plot initiative at USC under the advisement of Professor Jen Toy, which is an effort in community-based ecological restoration of degraded public lands in Los Angeles.  

 

Her leadership in this initiative led to her recruitment by Terremoto where she is now working fulltime after graduation. She and two of her colleagues, including Leslie Dinkin, an LAF Olmsted Scholar finalist, also spearheaded the 51 Miles Project, which includes the performance, programming, documentation and publication around their community walk of the length of the Los Angeles River last year.  

 

Nina’s work will undoubtably have long lasting impacts on the field as she moves into her professional life in landscape architecture. 

 

Reach more about Nina’s awards and background.  

https://arch.usc.edu/news/nina-weithorn-wins-blacklan-inaugural-edward-lyons-pryce-scholarship 

 

 

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