Emma Robinson ’15 discussed the importance of "civic agriculture" in food systems reform. She described an approach that recognizes direct engagement in agriculture as a means to achieve social, economic, and environmental sustainability within local communities. A "civic" food system uses a grass-roots strategy for change, responsive to the current trends in alternative movements to uphold certain forms of racial and socioeconomic discrimination. The talk highlighted the significance of civic agriculture in supporting community-oriented and socially responsible development and explore how civic agriculture can be practiced to achieve these goals.
Prof. Philip Ackerman-Leist (sustainable agriculture) will be a featured speaker at the 2015 Leon County Sustainable Communities Summit in Tallahassee, Fla., on January 24. He will present with Karen Washington, a New York City physical therapist who founded City Farms Market after realizing that her clients’ health problems often stemmed from poor food choices. http://growinggreen.org/summit/speakers.asp
Prof. Phillip Ackerman-Leist (sustainable agriculture) made a public presentation via Skype “Rebuilding the Foodshed: A Community Resilience Guide” on December 3 at 6 p.m. at North Central Michigan College. Philip is the author of Rebuilding the Foodshed: How to Create Local, Sustainable and Secure Food Systems. Philip’s appearance was sponsored by North Central Michigan College, McLean & Eakin Booksellers, and the Local Food Alliance of Northern Michigan.
Congratulations to GMC alum Alex Vaughn ‘10, who continues his farming endeavors at one of the nation's most prestigious educational programs in organic agriculture: UC Santa Cruz's nine-month apprenticeship program. Alex received the prestigious "Simply Organic Scholarship Award" at the UC Santa Cruz's Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems Apprenticeship program. "After attending Green Mountain College in Vermont, I knew I wanted to explore organic farming as an activity — and possibly a career — that would engage both my mind and my body," said Vaughn in a story released by the university. In addition to gaining a solid technical background in organic farming techniques, Alex also learned about the importance of social justice in our food systems. "Ideally, I'd like to see a sustainable farming operation where the food produced is used to feed low-income families for free through a combination CSA/food bank operation," said Vaughn. After he leaves CASFS, Alex plans to return to the Northeast. He would like to be part of a sustainable farming organization, like the Grange, where farmers socialize, share technical info, discuss marketing strategies and organize lobbying efforts to push for policy change.
Kristen Schmitt, a student in the College’s master of sustainable food systems (MSFS) program, recently published an article “Deer Farming: The Next Adventure in Agriculture” in Modern Farmer magazine. She discusses the increasing popularity of deer farming, established in the 1970s as a way for farmers to maximize land for profit. “Because deer are adaptable to many different terrains, raising and breeding domesticated deer is a viable way to utilize small tracts of marginal land,” Kristen writes. “There’s also a boom in consumer demand for venison as an alternative to factory-farmed meat . . . but the U.S. currently produces only 20 percent of the venison needed to supply its domestic markets.”
Prof. Kenneth Mulder (Sustainable Agriculture) will present a program at the next Science Pub, an informal lecture series featuring local experts. His presentation, “Eating Oil: The Ecological Impacts of Agriculture,” is Sunday, March 2 at 4 p.m. at the Fair Haven Inn. According to Kenneth, no aspect of our "natural" history better exemplifies our departure from sustainability than our food system. An ecological economist, agriculture and energy researcher, and farmer, Kenneth will discuss how we can eat our way to a better planet. The event is free, except for any drinks or food you order. Sponsored by Friends of the Castleton Free Library and Friends of the Rutland Free Library.
Prof. Philip Ackerman-Leist (Sustainable Food Systems) presented a lecture last week titled "Rebuilding the Foodshed" at the Davis Auditorium at Fletcher Allen Medical Center last Thursday. Philip spoke about some of the most promising, replicable models for growing, processing, and distributing sustainably grown food, topics he covers in his book "Rebuilding the Foodshed: How to Create Local, Sustainable and Secure Food Systems". Philip will also be a featured speaker at the University of Florida Levin School of Law in Gainesville February 20-22, addressing the closing plenary at the 2014 Public Interest Environmental Conference. The conference theme is "Feeding the Future: Shrinking Resources, Growing Population and a Warming Planet." Conversations focus on the legal and environmental challenges that a growing population, a rapidly changing climate and shrinking natural resources present to agricultural production, and the efforts that are being made to secure intergenerational food-security.
Prof. Philip Ackerman-Leist (Environmental Studies and director of the College's MASFS program) published a blog post "Foodshed as New Democracy" for the Fair Observer website. He proposes that the collaborative act of defining and rebuilding a foodshed can "reclaim and rename" what agriculture once was, while adapting to current realities in the marketplace. He writes: "It is ironic to consider how many immigrants came to the United States not for the somewhat abstract ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness but simply to escape starvation. Rebuilding our foodsheds reminds us that we should not confuse liberty with the freedom to ignore, the pursuit of happiness with mindless trampling, or life as a mere biological threshold of tentative sustenance."
Green Mountain College is pleased to host Tovar Cerulli, author of The Mindful Carnivore—A Vegetarian’s Hunt for Sustenance. Cerulli made a public presentation on Monday, November 11 at 7 p.m. in the Gorge at Withey Hall. Cerulli’s book tells the story of his journey from eschewing not only flesh but all animal products, to becoming (improbably) a hunter. At the age of 20, concerned about the ecological impact of eating meat, Cerulli became a vegetarian, then vegan. “A few years later, having moved back to a rural community from New York City, I realized that all food has its costs. From habitat destruction to grain combines that inadvertently mince rabbits, to the shooting of deer in soybean and lettuce fields, crop production is far from harmless . . . I began to see the question wasn’t what we ate but how that food came to our plates,” he said. Primary sponsorship for Cerulli's visit to GMC is through the class Hunting: History, Ethics, and Management which examines a range of topics and issues related to hunting. Cerulli's book is one of the texts used in the class this semester. His visit coincides with a unit related to food production and game sampling where he shared some of his recipes with students.
Mark McAfee is the founder and CEO of Organic Pastures Dairy Company (www.organicpastures.com), the first certified organic raw milk dairy in California. It is the largest raw milk dairy farm in the world selling raw milk, cream, butter, kefir, cheese, and beef. McAfee is also the chairman and president of the Raw Milk Institute (rawmilkinstitute.net), which supplies education and training for raw milk producers, as well as valuable information about raw milk dairy farming for consumers and regulators. McAfee spoke to students on Monday, October 28 at 2:30 p.m. in the East Room.
Green Mountain College welcomes acclaimed writer, naturalist and activist Janisse Ray who will be visiting campus Thursday, October 10. At 9:30 a.m. she will present "Tipping the Balance Toward Liveable Landscapes" in Ackley Auditorium. Ray will also present an evening talk at 7 p.m. in the East Room titled "The Seed Underground: Agrodiversity, Genetic Stability & the Future of Food." Ray is the author of five books of literary nonfiction and a collection of nature poetry. Anne Raver of The New York Times likened Ray to the "southern Rachel Carson." Her most recent book, The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food, is a look at what’s happening to seeds, which is to say, the future of food. The book has won the American Society of Journalists Award and the Authors’ Arlene Eisenberg Award for Writing that Makes a Difference. Currently Ray is on the faculty of Chatham University’s low-residency MFA program. She holds an MFA from the University of Montana.
The voice of Prof. Philip-Ackerman–Leist (Sustainable Food Systems) was heard on radio stations across the country as he discussed his recent book Rebuilding the Foodshed. On April 1 he taped interviews with Indiana Public Radio (the Earth Eats program), The Frankie Boyer Show (a National Radio Network taped in Boston), and participated in A Public Affair, a live call-in program airing on WORT in Madison, Wisc. His recent talks also received newspaper coverage in the Charlotte Observer and the Daily Tar Heel (University of North Carolina).
Farm Manager Kenneth Mulder recently gave two presentations on agriculture, energy, and the prospects for reducing fossil fuel inputs into food production. In February, 2013 he presented at the NOFA-VT conference on the topic: “Farming Without Fossil Fuels: Humans, Animals and Systems.” In March, he co-presented with research and production assistant Ben Dube at the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service winter conference on the most recent results of the LEAFS production system trials. LEAFS (Long-term Ecological Assessment of Farming Systems) is an ongoing research trial comparing the land, labor, and energy costs of using human, animal, and machine power for vegetable production.
Prof. Philip Ackerman-Leist’s (sustainable agriculture) new book, Rebuilding the Foodshed: How to Create Local, Sustainable, and Secure Food Systems, was released by publisher Chelsea Green on January 31, 2013.
In his latest book, Ackerman-Leist explores the distinctions between local and regional food, and navigates the contemporary issues involved in establishing a sustainable food system.
He asks readers, “Can we build and support smaller-scale, locally oriented food systems that are more likely to be just, ecologically appropriate, accessible, and resilient than food systems of larger scales?” He does respond in the affirmative. However, through asserting the complications that face the local agricultural and, indeed, the global agricultural community, Ackerman-Leist makes it clear that the methods to achieve this goal are various and multifaceted.
He writes, “We Americans are well versed in volunteerism, supporting nonprofits, and transforming religious ideals into action. In sum, we do a pretty good job in responding to problems. But we don’t always seem to be so good at fixing problems—not even one as basic as ensuring that everyone has access to affordable, nutritious, culturally appropriate foods. The first step in addressing a problem is defining it. And the more complex the problem, the more challenging it can be to define it.”
Despite this proviso, Ackerman-Leist defines many problems with the food system, through explaining historical context and the contemporary legal and cultural landscape. Most importantly, he describes the challenges that readers will face if they choose to enter the national debate, or even if they choose to subvert the status quo on an individual level. Through the medium of his writing, Ackerman-Leist provides sustainability-minded readers with a key ingredient for success: confidence that it can be done.
Among the admirers of the book is Marion Nestle, Prof. of Sociology at New York University and author of the influential blog Food Politics. She plans on using the book for her food advocacy class at NYU this summer.
Read an early review of the book from Publisher’s Weekly here .