According to a May 2015 report released by Purdue University and the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, demand for recent college graduates holding agriculture-related degrees will increase rapidly through at least 2020. The demand will grow so rapidly, in fact, that the number of projected annual job opportunities in agriculture is expected to outpace the number of graduates by almost 40 percent.
The nation’s colleges and universities must have seen this coming, as many institutions have created or expanded opportunities for students to gain first-hand experience with farming and ranching on campus or nearby. These pastures, fields, and laboratories provide students with training in the full spectrum of tasks involved in farm operation, from basic planting and harvesting, to management and long-term planning. Some raise food for campus dining operations. Others sell their products to the public. Some are extensive enterprises that can be measured in acres, while others are small, concentrated projects working in square feet with all-volunteer crews.
Nine of these farms are described below. What they have in common is their purpose: to educate the next generation of farmers about sustainable and humane growing practices that can form the foundation of our agricultural future.
For generations, the face of farming in America has been the face of a sun-baked, hard-working man. Even with record growth in the number of female farmers, men still make up approximately 70 percent of primary and secondary farm operators, creating a collision course between entrenched gender biases and taboos and the realities of farming’s changing demographics.
Annie’s Project, founded in 2003 by University of Illinois Extension educator Ruth Hambleton, is one organization pushing to help the new generation of female farmers and ranchers over those hurdles to access the tools they need to be competent, successful growers, farm business managers, and business partners. The 18-hour curriculum combines an introduction to the five traditional risk areas of farming–farm risk management, production, marketing, legal, and financial and human resources–with lessons learned by Hambleton in more than two decades of field support.
“In my first 25 years of extension work, I listened to the many concerns and requests that farm women had,” Hambleton says.
Eliminating waste on a farm frees up capacity to focus on tasks and innovations that can enhance efficiency and increase the odds of economic viability. It’s what Ben Hartman and his wife Rachel of Clay Bottom Farm in northern Indiana have been practicing for the last four years or so and the results have been dramatic with increases in profit and quality of life.
To explain their methodology in the name of helping struggling small farmers across the country find a better, more waste-free and profitable way to farm, Ben wrote The Lean Farm: How to Minimize Waste, Increase Efficiency, and Maximize Value and Profits with Less Work, published in September of 2015. Seedstock recently caught up with Ben to discuss his “lean farming” philosophy, how he applies it to his farm and the positive results he has seen.
Who better to put in charge of creating healthy school lunch menu options than the students themselves? It might sound crazy to some, but eager high school students in Orange County, California are taking on this challenge by participating in Cooking Up Change, an annual national culinary competition in which teams of student chefs strive to concoct healthy and delicious school meals.
The program is part of the Healthy Schools Campaign and winning high school teams qualify for the national contest in Washington, D.C.
In Orange County, the program is managed by Kid Healthy, an organization that focuses on reducing childhood obesity and promoting healthy diets.
8 Academic Programs Focused on Food Justice, Sustainability and Access Grow in Tow with Local Food MovementMarch 13, 2016 | AJ Hughes
College and university academic programs focused on food justice, sustainability, and increased food access are on the rise, with an ever-growing number of students interested in such areas of academia. Ellen Messer, who teaches food policy courses at Boston University, confirms this increasing level of interest.
“It’s been a general trend since the organic and local food trend, and colleges are more aware of that,” she says.
Messer points out that food studies programs, many of which come with a bent toward sustainability and justice, often intersect with a wide range of other academic offerings.