sustainable agriculture education
Jo Ann Baumgartner’s interest in wild farming—the practice of integrating agriculture with local ecosystems to support both high crop yields and a healthy, biodiverse environment— started when she and her husband worked their own organic farm.
Baumgartner “came from an understanding and love of wild nature,” and had always relished a chance vacation or outing that let her be in the outdoors. While farming, she began to see connections between the land she cultivated and the wild places she loved. While working on a book about California’s endangered species, she noticed that many creatures were rare precisely because of agriculture, which has replaced the natural habitat of many species with crops grown in monoculture.
Founded in 1984, the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute (MFAI) is one of the nation’s leading nonprofit advocacy organizations for sustainable agriculture. Teaching children sustainable farming, public programming and lobbying for sustainable agriculture policy at the state and federal level are the daily work of the MFAI. Funded by federal grants and donations, the MFAI also assists retiring farmers in how best to manage their farmland and aids growers in the organic certification process.
Spring Creek Farm, founded by Louise Kellogg, houses Alaska Pacific University’s Kellogg Campus in Palmer, Alaska, with about 800 acres bequeathed as part of a family trust.
“The goal was to create a campus for the University, a very small one,” says Steve Rubinstein, the director of APU’s graduate program in Outdoor and Environmental Education. “And also to keep it as a working farm and to use it for other various educational aspects. We always had the goal of providing educational programs. It was not necessarily slated to become a vegetable farm, but that’s where we took it – it seemed to be a good direction.”
Sponsored Post – The Sustainable Horticulture Department at Triton College in River Grove, IL is offering innovative new online courses to meet the evolving needs of the emerging green economy. Through two grants, a Department of Labor Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) Grant and a National Science Foundation (NSF) Career Pathways in Agriculture Technology Grant, Triton has developed two associate degree programs with two stackable certificates in Sustainable Agriculture Technology (SAT) and Sustainable Landscaping Practices, as well as a standalone certificate in Sustainable Landscaping.
While the study of agriculture was once mostly limited to land-grant universities, an increasing number of institutions of higher learning, both private and public, large and small are now addressing this subject with a sustainability bent.
Here’s a a sampling of colleges and universities with sustainable food and farming offerings:
As the largest “farm-to-fork” rooftop garden in the region, the Chicago Botanic Garden’s McCormick Place West Rooftop Garden has garnered quite a following in Chicago and across the Midwest since it was planted in late June. The gardening project was started to bring attention to local sustainable agriculture and to create jobs for people in the community.
SAVOR…Chicago, McCormick Place’s food service provider and funder, uses the fresh produce grown at McCormick Place for its restaurant and catering operations.
Portland, Oregon’s Zenger Farm is striving to be a national model for urban, sustainable agriculture education while meeting the needs of people in its backyard: the low-income neighborhoods of Lents and Powelhurst-Gilbert.
The urban farm works to provide sustainable food and agriculture education, food access, and support for emerging food businesses in the area.
Though the farm is not currently certified, plans are underway to pursue organic certification within the next year, according to Sara Cogan, Farm Manager for Zenger Farms. Sustainable agriculture methods used on the farm includes drip irrigation, strict avoidance of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and creation of habitat to support diverse populations of beneficial insects.
Hydroponics, and other sustainable gardening and growing practices, are gradually becoming more widely used in Nevada not only as a result of the arid climate and challenging soil conditions in the area, but also to increase local food production. And the Desert Research Institute (DRI), which is part of the Nevada System of Higher Education and conducts various research projects concerning environmental science every year, wants to ensure that young people on board with the developing industry there.
In fact, there are many hydro-centric businesses emerging in the area, said Amelia Gulling of DRI, who is the administrator for the institute’s GreenPower Program. “And there are going to be some international businesses hopefully coming specifically to Las Vegas to do larger scale hydro-farming,” Gulling said.