Transforming Agriculture, Perennially


Courtney Tharp


Courtney Tharp comes from Chapin, South Carolina, but now lives in Clemson to go to college. She is working on her Bachelor’s degree at Clemson University with a major in Horticulture and a minor in Sustainability.


What drew you to work at TLI?
Since becoming involved in the plant/ agriculture field, I have felt the urge to contribute in a meaningful way to finding ways to increase the amount of food that can be produced and to discover the ways in which it can be done in an earth-friendly way. I was in search for an organization that focused on using research to develop new systems for sustainable agriculture, and a bonus would be to have access to experienced scientists to challenge and inspire me! I also have an interest in soil science and growing the plants that have the potential to feed the world, so TLI ended up checking all the boxes!

What else are you passionate about (outside of work)?
I am very passionate about Cuong Nhu, which is a Vietnamese mixed martial art that I joined in 2019. It has been extremely valuable in expanding my understanding of what strength can mean for both your mind and your body when you pursue a practice with your whole heart. Being a woman, it feels especially empowering to feel myself becoming more confident in my ability to defend myself if the need arises. I think everyone can benefit from studying one of the many martial arts practices out there, so here’s your sign to join in on one!

What’s your motto / favorite quote?
“Man only suffers because he takes seriously what the gods made for fun” -Alan Watts

I feel like a lot of times we can all get caught up in the perceived seriousness of our lives and allow it to become stressful just to wake up and make decisions every day. It feels so much more liberating to realize that we are all here by a beautiful chance of events, and there truly doesn’t need to be any more meaning than that. This world is a playground through which we can discover, feel, and grow in a big sandbox that will wash away one day.

What were you like at age 10?
I was most definitely a kid of the earth! I had a passion for rock collecting that was displayed on every trip that I made around the country or even just into my back yard. At that age, if you would have asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would probably say either a geologist or some form of a scientist. I was constantly in the kitchen going through my mom’s borax and glue to make slime and other concoctions (AKA huge messes). It was due to the encouragement to explore during this stage in life that allowed me to develop the confidence and sense of belonging in the field that I ended up in today!

Support the work of Courtney and others at The Land Institute with a donation.


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