What is the Green Mountain College Sustainable Food Systems Research Symposium?
The Sustainable Food System Solutions Research Symposium is a celebration of research conducted by students of the Sustainable Food Systems and Sustainable Agriculture Master’s program at Green Mountain College. The purpose of the Symposium is to allow students to present their capstone projects, proposals, and results in an atmosphere that reminds students that they are supported by a learning community as dedicated to honing professional skills and expertise as they are to sustainable agriculture and food systems.
Ewesful Skills: Experiential Learning Modules in Livestock Management for Beginning Farmers and Sustainable Agriculture Students
This capstone project aimed to empower Sustainable Agriculture students and beginning farmers as experiential learners while teaching them necessary technical skills for livestock management success. Ten experiential sheep learning modules were written and then taught in the labs of Animal Science and Livestock Management courses at Kennebec Valley Community College (KVCC) in the Sustainable Agriculture associates degree program. Each learning module includes a PowerPoint lecture, a hands-on lesson plan conducted with the KVCC Farm sheep, and a corresponding homework assignment. Students learning was assessed through their completion of assignments and a semester end survey tracking sheep skill proficiency. Students also provided valuable feedback to strengthen the learning modules and the educators experiential learning teaching skills when working with beginning farmers.
Pioneer Valley Food: A Story Map on immigration and the local food system
My capstone project will explore the question, “What is Pioneer Valley cuisine?” within the context of migration. The final product will be an online Story Map that will show the chronology and geography of people arriving to the bioregion and their foods, culinary practices, and roles in the food system. The Story Map will be supported by a literature review that will look at the history of immigration in the Pioneer Valley and review of scholarship on immigration and cuisine, as well as an issue analysis of immigration in the area. Individual Story Map entries will contain oral histories or descriptions of local restaurants, people, organizations, farms that will highlight the cuisine or role in the food system of different immigrant groups. My hope is to create a meaningful product that will deepen understanding of Pioneer Valley cuisine and contextualize recent immigration within the long history of migration in the bioregion.
Diet and Cancer: How and what cancer patients and consumers are told
Cancer is among the leading causes of death worldwide. Each year, tens of millions of people are diagnosed with cancer around the world, with more than half of those diagnosed eventually dying from this disease. Thus, it is essential to find preventives and/or alternative methods for fighting cancer to increase survival rates and minimize diagnoses. Evidence shows a link between cancer and diet. However, this link is just as mysterious as the disease itself. This project focuses on accomplishing two main objectives. The first objective focuses on the link between cancer and diet. A traditional literature review will be conducted to analyze 1) the foods and/or compounds within the foods that are protective and/or cancer causing, 2) the potential cancer-causing agents that are introduced to food during the production, processing, and packaging stages, and 3) evidence of organic and/or sustainably produced foods associated with better health outcomes for cancer patients. Although evidence shows that there is a link between cancer and diet, many cancer patients and consumers are unaware. Therefore, the second objective focuses on increasing the effectiveness of existing and future nutrition guides for cancer patients and consumers. A systematic review of existing nutrition guides will be developed and applied to the content and design of these guides. In order to implement the systematic review, criteria will first be developed based on the literature, followed by an evaluation of the nutrition guides based on the criteria created. As a result, recommendations will be made for healthcare professionals and/or authors of nutrition guides.
Sustainable Food Systems Minor at Santa Clara University
This capstone project is focused on developing the framework for a Sustainable Food Systems Minor using Santa Clara University (SCU) as a “case study”. There is a growing need for educated young leaders in the budding sustainable food movement. In order for change to occur within the food system, a diversified approach must be taken. Nonprofits, businesses, educators, and farmers are looking for graduates with a diverse skill set across the food system. SCU is not a land grant university, nor does it have food systems or agriculture program. The minor program will aim to be accessible to all majors across the university. A systematic literature review of other comparable institutions was conducted to identify the best practices for sustainable food system programs. Two course syllabi and materials were developed based on the programs assessed. Applicable courses currently offered at SCU and potential community partners/ internship opportunities were identified. These students will not only go on to be sustainable food consumers, but they will be the future leaders of the sustainable food movement.
Resiliency in a climate changing world: Climate change impacts and adaptations for food production in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States
Climate change has the potential to drastically impact environments, weather patterns, and the availability of natural resources for food production systems. This report will serve as a guide for nonprofit organizations on the impacts of climate change on food production in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, in order to inform programming efforts. Significant potential impacts are found for agricultural production and livestock and fishing operations through systematic literature review. The report will recommend sustainable methods for mitigating these impacts and supporting the continuation of strong, resilient regional food production systems. If farmers are given the knowledge and support needed to adapt to these changes, then food production within the region will thrive. Strengthened food security through improvements in food availability, access, stability, and utilization are additional anticipated benefits. By providing a region-specific perspective, this report offers a personalized viewpoint that has the potential to be more impactful and galvanizing for Pacific Northwest organizations and food producers than information on climate change that focuses on a global scale.
Expanding local food business development capacity through consulting markets: A consulting template and resource guide
The opportunities of the growing local food movement have challenged farmers and food artisans to diversify and innovate all while meeting a wide variety of consumer preferences and expectations. This shift has created a change in local agriculture that requires small-scale local producers and processors (“local food businesses”) to morph into part producer and part entrepreneur in order to remain competitive and resilient in the evolving marketplace. However, the fast-growing movement fails to recognize the business management challenges of realistically meeting these expectations in current conditions. The literature highlights three particular areas in need of change: 1) lack of hands-on business support, 2) access to applicable information and 3) lack of existing infrastructure. Incentivizing small business consulting entities with the untapped, niche local food market will simultaneously bolster capacity of business management interventions for the local food industry. To enable these business professionals to effectively serve local food systems, this project will create a consulting template designed for small local food business clients that may be utilized by non-industry consultants interested in pursuing local food market clientele. The report will include resources to guide already knowledgeable business individuals in the nuances and needs of these organizations. Expected results are expansion and capacity of individualized business management support and resources for independent local food businesses thus fostering more resilient local food networks.
Bamboo: The Fastest Plant to Grow Change
The history of bamboo use by Asian and South American cultures is widely documented and its use continues to enhance agricultural, environmental, industrial, and commercial sectors with growth and a promising future. While European markets have already begun to heavily invest in policy change, advocacy, and adoption of bamboo technologies, the United States had fundamentally remained disinterested in bamboo until very recently. In the state of Alabama, private investment in bamboo processing infrastructure and bamboo as a crop is currently underway with expectations of entry into a multibillion-dollar market by 2020. Oregon is heavily dependent on timber and agriculture which presents an opportunity in terms of cultivating bamboo for both national and international markets. Furthermore, Oregon has favorable growing conditions for bamboo while offering unique potentials for rapid development of bamboo product value chains due to the preexisting infrastructure for timber production and the state’s current commitment to grass seed farming. However, bamboo remains predominately bound to the ornamental plant market due to a negative stigma based on myth and misunderstandings regarding alleged environmental dangers. This project will prepare a traditional narrative literature review and use it to create multiple publications and an annotated bibliographical website devoted to dispelling current American myths, increasing stakeholder knowledge of bamboo, and advocating for bamboo use as a crop to meet future sustainability goals while enhancing farm resiliency in Oregon.
The Hrzic Homestead: From Freedom to Farming—Providing Hope to Veterans Through Agriculture
Nearly 62,000 veterans are currently homeless in the United States. These men and women are transitioning from the military to the civilian life with no guarantees of employment. With the high rate of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), anxiety, substance abuse, and mental health issues, veterans are having to overcome huge obstacles to re-acclimate themselves back into their lives (Helping, 2013). One of the ways to assist these veterans is offer local jobs in agriculture. Agriculture provides an opportunity for these veterans to have a job that is purposeful and important which in return, provides them with comfort knowing they are making a difference to the local food system. A business plan will be created to outline the intentions of The Hrzic Homestead. This plan will discuss the funding, education, outreach, and production. This farm will provide the tools for homeless veterans to succeed by offering jobs, shelter, counseling, agricultural education and more. Linking up with local veteran’s organizations like the veteran’s hospital, will allow these individual numerous services. Not only will it provide jobs for local veterans, it encourages individuals to buy local from our veterans. In Altoona, Pennsylvania there are little to no farms that a program of this kind. The Hrzic Homestead goal is to offer endless support for our local veterans by providing them with the tools to overcome their current hardships.
Adoption of Agroforestry Practices on Farms in Western Illinois
The fertile soils of Illinois are some of the most intensively farmed soils in the world and are critical for global food production and economic prosperity of the state. However, adverse environmental impacts of intensive farming threaten the long-term financial, social, and environmental sustainability of Illinois’ agriculture. These environmental impacts observed today make adoption of sustainable practices critical to increasing the resilience of farms and ranches within the state. One farming method gaining popularity among farmers and researchers in the Midwest is Agroforestry. This farming method is defined as "a management system that combines agriculture and trees to address conservation needs and build more profitable and weather-resilient farms, ranches, and communities” (USDA: NAC, 2014). Though benefits are promising for both natural resource conservation and climate change mitigation and adaptation, adoption of these practices remains low. This Capstone Project aims to gather an improved understanding of knowledge, motivators, barriers, and adoption potential of agroforestry practices among specialty crop growers in Illinois. Using a survey method, researchers will gain valuable insight and data from specialty crop growers to inform future outreach programs based on identified needs of the growers. By analyzing data with the Theory of Planned Behavior framework, The study aims to identify what actions are needed to promote behavior change and uptake of these conservation methods on these farms.
United States Department of Agriculture: National Agroforestry Center, (2014). An overview of agroforestry. Retrieved from https://www.fs.usda.gov/nac/documents/agroforestrynotes/an01g01.pdf.
Growing and Cooking Your Own Food: The Education of a Community
Food insecurity, access, availability, and literacy are major socio-economic issues for lower income individuals and families. These issues, as they exist in a community in Mesa, Arizona will be examined. A curriculum designed to teach gardening and food literacy is presented as a means of creating positive change within this community. If low-income housing residents have increased knowledge about growing and preparing food through participation in gardening and cooking courses, then the tenant’s quality of life will be improved. A pre-survey was administered to determine community food system needs. A community listening session was held after the pre-survey and the curriculum created. The curriculum addresses cooking and gardening skills, gaps, and needs to help elevate the resident’s current level of knowledge about food. There are several impacts for the community. The first is communication and knowledge about food. The work involves the community to open a dialogue about food issues, education, and access. There is also social impact. Involving neighbors in a new way and starting the conversation about food is a powerful bond. The curriculum stands alone as a piece of work that may be implemented in other communities with similar positive results.
Commensality By Design: Transdisciplinary Considerations For Dinner Church Design, Implementation, and Evaluation.
Situated at the intersection of agroecology and ethnobotany, sociology of religion and social movement theory, religious agrarianism, and bioregional ecclesiology, this transdisciplinary journal article seeks to answer the age-old question “how should the church feed the hungry?” by contrasting the shortcomings of contemporary charitable food relief with resurgent meal-based focal practices of the ancient Christian church. It is rooted in a transdisciplinary, scoping literature review that seeks to identify 1) the historic role(s) and outcomes of commensality in the life of early Christian communities and 2) the elements of commensality (communal meals) that causally impact participant dietary quality (including social capital, food security, fruit and vegetable consumption, and dietary diversity). The paper then models a bioregionally-specific application of these key elements in a midwestern micropolitan context. Finally, the paper charts a research and evaluation agenda for practitioners to identify, leverage, and evaluate dinner church activities as multi-functional interventions capable of improving the, physical, social, and spiritual health of participants while contributing to the social, ecological, and economic vitality of their bioregions.
High School Intro to Plant Agricultural Science Lessons
Not many young people are getting into agriculture, and the number of people retiring from the field is higher than those entering. My Capstone Project will introduce, educate, and encourage young people to get involved with the agricultural field. For my Capstone I have been making a fast-paced introduction course, which flows with the seasons. This course includes lesson plans with hands-on activities, lectures with lots of visuals, quizzes, tests, exams, and field trip ideas. This course revolves around the normal public school calendar with forty weeks. It will heavily teach safety, identification of plants, pests, and tools, and various procedures used in agriculture. This course is meant to be an introduction to plant agriculture for high school freshmen, and will hopefully attract young people into the agricultural field. The course is full with the base knowledge that build a foundation and will set students up for success in furthering their knowledge for internships, their education, and future job endeavors.
What happens to livestock that doesn't make it to the slaughterhouse?: An overview of disposal processes and recommendations
Much of society lacks recognition of the quantity of waste that is produced by the current food system. There are many forms of waste attributed to modern consumer practices. One of these forms of waste is livestock and poultry carcasses and other livestock waste products. Current methods of livestock and poultry disposal contribute to possible unethical livestock and poultry treatment and exhibit poor health and environmental concern. Carcass decomposition can contribute to poor air quality, poor water quality, and additional landfill contaminants. This paper will explore the way of disposal for decomposing animal matter and its impact on farmers.
This paper will also explore alternative disposal methods for ethical livestock and poultry in the form of on farm composting and other alternative solutions. Local residents, bioregions, and poultry and livestock animals could benefit from changes addressing this issue. Modifications to current methods of handling could drastically change the way deceased livestock and poultry disposal is dealt with in on farms and other impacted facilities. To accomplish this objective, developing an understanding of existing practices combined with full recognition of the potential of alternative disposal methods for carcasses would be necessary for the improvement of practices effecting sustainable carcass disposal solutions. Developing a local program or incentive to change current disposal practices can create more sustainable solutions for livestock disposal for farmers while benefiting surrounding community members, the local environment, and the livestock and poultry animals within the food system.
Meeting Your Meat Curriculum: Edible Education for Ethical Meat Consumers
My capstone project centers around developing a curriculum for consumer education around sourcing, preparing and consuming ethical meat. This curriculum will include four different modules designed to be adaptable to various settings, audiences, lengths of time, and levels of firsthand experience with topics. At least one module in the curriculum will be tested and revised through a workshop hosted in partnership with an organization involved in consumer and public education around food. This project is an opportunity to define practices and considerations that are involved in ethical meat production, processing and consumption; provide a non-traditional market opportunity for livestock farmers raising good, clean, fair meat; further support ethical livestock producers and butchers by educating local consumers; and help consumers develop knowledge and skills that will help them integrate ethical meat eating into their daily lives.
|Doyle, Casey E||
A blueprint for establishing a sustainable local food economy for a healthy community at the Blackstone Farmers’ Market
The Town of Blackstone, Massachusetts has the potential to become a center for many agricultural activities if farmers are afforded the opportunity to sell their products directly to consumers. Thus, this project proposal is for the blueprint for establishing a farmers’ market in the Town of Blackstone, which will lead to a sustainable local food economy that provides for a healthy community. Being an average-income town, the establishment of a farmers’ market will ensure that the people of the town and surrounding area have a market with a constant flow of food. This proposal presents a brief description of the project, its significance, short literature review, theories of change, and the possible challenges that may be encountered in the process of meeting the unmet need of a farmers’ market.
Decentering Whiteness on Anishinaabe and Dakota Lands: An Educational Podcast Series
The Land Stewardship Project (LSP) is a majority-white sustainable agriculture organization that prioritizes racial justice. Using a cohort model, LSP provides farmers with “racial justice training, education, action, and analysis (Land Stewardship Project, n.d.).” This paper will present strategies for educating the predominantly white sustainable agriculture community about indigenous sovereignty issues embedded in Minnesota’s food landscape. Curriculum for this project was developed by designing four podcast episodes, with each episode featuring a different type of storytelling: “stock, concealed, resistance, and counter stories (Bell, Roberts, Irani, and Murphy, 2011).” Stories are interwoven with anti-racism theory and history. This project found that by highlighting stories that frame food production through the lenses of whiteness and indigeneity, cohort participants identify their position in a food system that prioritizes whiteness and advocate for equity-based policies.
Farmer Mental Health: A Systematic Literature Review and Evaluation of Current Resources
We are currently in the midst of a new farm crisis. Farm incomes are down, and crop and milk prices are low. The USDA Economic Research Service predicted that net farm income would drop by 12.1 percent in 2018 (USDA ERS, 2018). Dairy farmers are losing their farms at record numbers; Wisconsin reported the loss of 382 dairy farms in 2018 by last August (Dickrell, 2018). The last time farmers were under such financial stress was during the Farm Crisis of the 1980s, during which the total number of farms in the U.S. fell from 2.2 million in 1982 to 1.9 million in 1992 (Brasier, 2005). Farmer suicide and farmers in crisis are global issues, however for the purposes of this project I will focus on farmers in the United States. Farming is stressful and often isolating work, and farmers and agricultural workers have higher rates of suicide than other occupations (Ringgenberg, 2014). Farmers are exposed to a myriad of workplace stressors: financial stress, isolation, exposure to pesticides and the use of dangerous machinery. Farmers also tend to have easy access to firearms (NORA, 2018).
Clearly there is a need for more accessible mental health resources in rural areas and access to affordable and appropriate care for farmers and agricultural workers. Farmer advocacy organizations, as well as government on the state and federal levels, are starting to recognize this as an issue necessitating urgency. However, current research on the topic of farmer mental health and resources for farmers in crisis are limited. This capstone project will consist of a systematic literature review of current research of, and resources for, farmer mental health, as well as the development of an evaluation matrix to assess existing farmer mental health resources and toolkits. The culmination of the project will identify the key missing elements of the existing resources and toolkits, and make recommendations for the creation of a new farmer mental health toolkit and resource page on the website of the National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC), youngfarmers.org.
The Palouse Tables Project Simulation Workshop Series
The Palouse bioregion, an area located in southeastern Washington State and north central Idaho, is abundant in farmland, however food insecurity impacts a large portion of the population. Fortunately, there are several groups and organizations that focus on alleviating challenges of food insecurity. The Palouse Tables Project (PTP), a year-long participatory research and community food planning project, collected data from November 2017- October 2018 of local food systems through positive inquiry and what was “going right” in each community. This information gathered is crucial to understanding community assets and challenges that leaders in the food system can utilize to have an insider’s perspective of what food insecurity looks like in each community studied. While all of the data that was collected was written up as a lengthy report, the information that is to be used may be inaccessible due to several factors. Through a series of simulation workshops, the information collected from the PTP will be presented in an inclusive way for clarification that allows participants to analyze the data in a hands-on approach. The workshop events will increase community food leaders’ knowledge and empathy of each community studied as well as provide information for next steps for further grant funding for the PTP. A follow-up with participants will also be attempted in order to gather more information once these participants go back and work with these food insecure populations.
Curriculum Development for Veteran-Focused Culinary Sustainability Program
Many veterans, both disabled and non-disabled, return from deployment or combat to become students in post-secondary education. Many such veterans find, however, that their specific experiences in the military often create a negative imbalance for them as they transition into their civilian educational and professional careers (Branker, 2009). Veteran-focused food system education and career programs such as veteran to farmer programs have shown promise in addressing some of these challenges of transitioning back into civilian life (Fleming, 2015). This project seeks to build upon the success of such programs through the development of a veteran-focused, associate level, culinary sustainability degree curriculum. In practice, the program will provide veterans with curriculum that addresses their specific needs, meaningful, lucrative vocation as well as provide the food system with culinarians, food producers, and food entrepreneurs that prioritize sustainable practices. The project will include a literature review of comparable veteran-focused culinary, food system, and entrepreneurship programs, the development of a curricular framework and course descriptions, the writing of representative syllabi, and the construction of a skills and knowledge matrix.
A Social Justice Guide To Auditing Food Systems
Communities in the Mississippi Delta are highly affected by issues of food insecurity and social inequity. Although there has been a call for equity within the food system, a systematic approach to identifying and addressing the food system inequity has to be fully developed. Most programs that address the issue of food security fail to address the deeper social issues that have a correlation to issues within the food system. The purpose of this research is to develop a social justice audit template for communities, cities, towns, and bioregions that will promote diversity and equity within the food system. A social justice audit can evaluate food system policies, institutions, and programs for equity gaps that prevent the needs of the larger society from being met. Literature review shows that social audits have been effectively used to address larger social issues of inequality. This research will look at the food system of a local community within the Mississippi Delta using a social justice audit template as a tool used to identify structural inequity. Local, community, city, and bioregional food systems can develop plans of action that promotes food equity among all its stakeholders, to include consumers.
Species and Variety Conservation over a ten-year period from Home Gardens in the Kyrgyz Republic, Central Asia
Home gardens provide economic and food security, boost societal and familial bonds, and promote biodiversity within agroecosystems. Despite these many benefits there is still more to understand. Especially when looking at home gardens’ potential for promoting and conserving biodiversity in situ, as part of the larger agroecosystem. This study aims to accomplish this through a longitudinal study of agricultural biodiversity in managed home gardens in the Kyrgyz Republic and will look to provide an understanding of the rates of biodiversity loss or conservation. Fruit tree and shrub species and variety diversity and the factors that affect home garden practices were surveyed using interviews, structured surveys, and detailed home garden mapping. The baseline results for the home gardens (n=9) were collected in 2004/5 and the same gardens were re-surveyed and re-mapped in 2015. The varietal diversity of apples, the edible tree and shrub species diversity, and compositional change of the gardens will be analyzed using multiple data analysis methods. Anticipated results are that apple varietal loss occurred but that home garden structure and composition remained stable. Understanding the rate at which biodiversity is lost or conserved in actively managed home gardens can aid in in situ conservation efforts and provide a better understanding of the long-term effects home gardens have on agroecosystems.
U.S. Barriers to Hispanic Food Values and Ethics: A Rapid Systematic Review
Objective: To conduct a rapid systematic review of Hispanic food values and ethics and the barriers they face in the U.S. to following their preferred food lifestyle. Hispanics were selected due to the increasing relevance of current immigration trends and socioeconomic challenges they face in the U.S.
Results: 12 themes emerged from the research: the value of ethnic food and culture, Hispanics’ value and knowledge of healthy eating, accessibility and food swamps as a barrier to Hispanic food purchasing values, self-efficacy as a barrier or enabler, economic barriers, time/schedule as a barrier to preferred food-ways, internal family-social barriers, school meal programs as a barrier, the value of quality and provenance, stress eating as a barrier, and finally, farmland and ownership disparities.
Discussion: The literature review gives a powerful overview of the values and ethics Hispanics have across different generations, nations, and length of time in the U.S. and the barriers they face to following their preferred food culture. The themes present across 15 studies gives an excellent starting point for further research, but also for policy-makers, advocacy groups, and nonprofits to better approach Hispanics and their needs, wants, and values for purchasing food. Further, understanding Hispanic food values creates competitive opportunities for businesses to provide food products to a growing Hispanic population, while also providing much needed social change.
Remembering Ourselves in Community: A Sustainable Food Systems Course
The food system has undergone rapid changes in recent history. With the advent of industrialization and mechanization, fewer people have been required to participate in farming, processing, packing, and distributing food (Dimitri et. al., 2006). Instead, larger corporations whose interests are predominantly economic, have taken control over a significant amount of the food system (Ikerd, 2018). This disconnection from the food system has affected both human and natural communities . This project is based on the premise that if students feel connected to their local human and ecological communities through a food system course, they will gain critical thinking skills and be able to advocate for sustainable food system solutions. This project will be to design a course for community college agricultural programs using food systems literature and collaboration with food system stakeholders and educators. By using hands-on learning activities, students will get perspective on issues inherent in food systems, as well as skills to help foster positive change.
Composting Food Waste From Dining Halls at East Carolina University: Feasibility Study
This study will investigate the feasibility of diverting organic materials, specifically food wastes from landfills by processing organic food waste generated from East Carolina University dining facilities. A recent change in the global recycling chain presents an increase in the urgency of diverting food waste from our landfills. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 30.3 million tons of food waste went to landfills, representing 22 percent of all municipal solid waste landfilled (Environmental Protection Agency, n.d.). East Carolina University’s student body makes up a significant portion of Greenville’s total population, making it an ideal candidate to implement the first large-scale composting in the Eastern North Carolina region. This feasibility study will be completed in collaboration with East Carolina University, the City of Greenville, the County of Pitt, and the State of North Carolina. If a feasibility study is completed, then East Carolina University will be more likely to implement composting of food waste from their dining facilities, leading to a decrease in the amount of food waste being diverted to a landfill.
The Food Gap in the Front Range
There lies a common theme in the development of alternative food movements in the United States: these movements draw support for locally-grown, sustainably-produced and/or organic foods through engaging middle and upper class communities, yet rely on the conventional, mass-produced market to provide food for low-income communities and communities of color. “Good” food, therefore, has become a boutique item, only available to those who can afford it.
In the Colorado Front Range, this notion is no different. The small, sustainable farmers and producers who these movements seek to support are reliant on those that can afford to purchase their product, accessing this through direct sales outlets - farmers markets, CSAs, farm stands, chefs and restaurants who support their practice and share their story. However, this effort is limited by how the middle-upper class choose to consume, whether they purchase their produce at the farmers market or the grocery store. Further, it excludes a large portion of the population - those who may be seeking to support but cannot afford to participate. In an effort to create a sustainable food system, these movements have left a gap between those who can participate and those who cannot. My capstone will seek to identify potential solutions to support small farmers in the Front Range while engaging the populations that have been unable to partake in these movements towards building a more sustainable food system.
Frugal Food: Navigating your way through the Modern Food System
This capstone will explore the concept of publishing a book on the modern food system and how it’s affecting the health of those who consume a modern ‘Westernized’ diet. This book would be a combination of being a nutritional hand-book, have educational information about the modern food system, and human health, provide how-to-shop-savvy instructions, as well as how to prepare foods from scratch and use recipes. The goal is to educate and empower consumers so they can navigate their way through their bioregional food system moving more away from processed and convenient foods popular in conventional markets and cuisines, and fast food outlets. In doing so will help the consumer save money, eat healthier choices, and build relationships/support bioregional producers. Supporting food production is more important now more than ever as the global population continues to increase, considerations for producers and farms decreases, land available for production diminishes, deforestation continues, and more eco-losses are experienced. By spending our dollars differently, we can literally ‘vote’ or ‘support’ a particular kind of food system we want to see continue. Do we want a sustainable food system that encompasses ethics for all? Do we want to support producers who utilize more natural methods over mechanization and fossil fuels? The consumer has more influence over the market than they realize.
Organic Strawberries, Farmworker Equity and Overturning the Tragedy of the Commons: The Legacy of Swanton Berry Ranch
It's a sad fact: Farmers who produce organic food and practice sustainable agriculture do not always treat immigrant farm workers fairly. Food justice is a powerful social movement that acknowledges the food system’s legacy of exploitation of farmworkers, especially people of color, and promotes fair treatment for farmworkers, farmers and other actors in the food system. One of the most brilliant pioneers of this movement is Jim Cochran, a strawberry farmer and graduate of the University of California at Santa Cruz and the founder of Swanton Berry Farm in Davenport, California.
Swanton Berry Ranch is the first commercial U.S. strawberry operation to go organic and has created a framework for other California strawberry farmers to convert to organic production. Cochran was also the first U.S. farmer to provide housing for farmworkers while paying them good wages, health insurance, paid time off, parental leave, sick leave, a pension, and a stake in the business, making him one of the only farmers in the country who offers equity to immigrant farmworkers.
Now in his late seventies, Cochran has added another “first” to his accomplishments: the creation of the Food Commons Fresno, a regional whole systems demonstration sustainability project in which farmers and farmworkers play a pivotal role. The idea for the Food Commons was first planted during Cochran’s time at UC Santa Barbara, which he attended before transferring to UC Santa Cruz and studied under ecologist and philosopher Garrett Hardin, who wrote the seminal article “The Tragedy of the Commons” for Science. Although Hardin believed that open access to common resources inevitably resulted in tragedy, Cochran sees the potential to use resources of "the commons" to design a hijack-proof type of organization that promotes regional food security, sustainability, and food justice for farmers, farmworkers and consumers.
The Food Commons “is a nationally networked system … that allows local and regional markets to operate efficiently and foodshed-based enterprises to cooperate, compete and thrive according to the principles of sustainability, fairness, and public accountability. It is a whole systems approach to localized food economies," according to Cochran. It consists of a Food Commons Trust (a nonprofit entity “to own land and other critical food system assets for the benefit of all citizens, leasing them at affordable rates to small- and mid-scale farmers” and entrepreneurs); a Food Commons Bank (“a community-owned financial institution that works with small-scale foodshed enterprises, producers and consumers to provide capital and financial services that will help meet “triple bottom line” objectives); and a Food Commons Hub, “a locally owned, cooperatively integrated business enterprise that builds and manages foodshed-based services” and can function as a food sales and distribution hub. The demonstration site is based in Fresno, California.
My journal article would examine multifaceted legacy of Swanton Berry Ranch and Jim Cochran: his success in growing and selling organic strawberries on a commercial scale, his gold standard treatment of immigrant farmworkers, and the Fresno Food Commons, looking at both how a young, low-earning farmer was able to accomplish so much with little money over the years and how other farmers could replicate his pioneering work.
In a Dry and Thirsty Land…
The purpose of this project is to facilitate community connecting threads between current community businesses, farmers’ markets, farmers and homesteaders in Coachella Valley. The reader will be encouraged to chart their own food map within their local food shed by using Coachella Valley as an illustrative example. The ebook format will provide case studies on five individuals or businesses that exemplify an area of emphasis in conservation, growing, eating, in the Coachella valley.
Home Gardens: Adaptation and Agrobiodiversity in Lancaster, PA
Home gardens are now recognized as an important source of agrobiodiversity and contributor to food security, and access to adequate nutrition, in food systems around the world. They remain understudied in the Global North, and in the United States in particular. I undertook a comparative case study of exceptionally diverse home gardens in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania that included field work with Pennsylvania Dutch smallholders and more recent refugee farmers. This project is the first exploration of contemporary garden diversity in Lancaster, PA, and one of only of a few that documents home garden diversity and agroecolocial practices employed in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. In addition to documenting specific crop species and varieties, my goal has been to understand and document the dynamics of home gardens to reveal their broader ecological, social, and economic impact on local food systems. My findings suggest that gardens are managed with sophisticated, intensive, sustainable farming knowledge and practices that seem to enhance the health of surrounding ecosystems, constantly being adapted to meet the growers' needs.
Analyzing the Environmental Sustainability of Home Gardeners
In the U.S. 35% of households participate in food production. Home food gardening has certain characteristics that work in its favor in terms of environmental sustainability. Its harvest-to-table distance is usually on the same plot of land, and therefore does not have any of the fuel emissions that come with food grown off-site. Further, in the United States, the number one irrigated crop by land area is lawn, which is a land-use choice that provides neither food nor natural habitat. Converting lawn to food production is an environmentally friendly choice that can reduce the pressure of agricultural encroachment on habitat in other parts of the world. Despite these advantages, home food production in the U.S. is not automatically more environmentally sustainable than commercial food production; the sustainability of a food garden depends on its production practices, species, and resource use. This research project will use user-generated posts from online two fora to document home gardening practices, resource use, and plants grown. It will also analyze their environmental impacts using the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Sustainability Assessment of Food and Agriculture Systems.