Lets talk about jobs in sustainability

The University of Massachusetts recently announced a collaboration among three academic departments, establishing the new UMass Amherst School of Earth and Sustainability.  While many students are attracted to the concept of sustainability, some wonder about opportunities for employment after graduation.  Here are a few thoughts on “jobs in sustainability” addressed to those students who have chosen to major in Sustainable Food and Farming, one of the 10 undergraduate majors offered by the new School.

Sustainable Food and Farming Jobs

Sustainable Food and Farming students are offered guidance throughout their time in college to seek and find their calling (career).   When students in this major take Junior Writing for example, they explore the concept of Good Work, which according to economist E.F. Schumacher should...

  1. Provide us with a decent living (food, clothing, housing)
  2. Enable us to perfect their natural gifts & abilities
  3. Allow us to serve other people to free us from our egocentricity
While students are often inspired by these powerful ideas, parents want to know about JOBS! 

So we list resources that provide students with access to internships and jobs on our Stockbridge School of Agriculture web page.  We also provide examples of the diverse nature of employment opportunities after graduation by listing the early career paths chosen by our recent graduates.  And we know that about 30% of the farmers in New England will retire in the next 10 years and 90% of them have no young person farming alongside them to take over the farm.  Trends analyses suggest sustainable food and farming is one of the hottest growing professions in America.

bfnOf course, entry to this profession is a challenge.  Access to land, finance and competition from industrial farming that exploits the land and people make more sustainable ways of growing and marketing food difficult.  But there is help.  The Massachusetts Beginning Farmer Network for example, is one of the local organizations that have emerged over the past few years to help young people navigate this rapidly changing situation.

Looking Ahead with Alan AtKisson

Our students know that we are living in a time of rapid transformation, not only for the New England food system, but for every biological and technological system on the planet.

According to futurist and sustainability pioneer, Alan AtKisson, who wrote in Sustainability is Dead – Long Live Sustainability

“people dedicated to promoting sustainability ideas and innovations—are needed in every field, in ever increasing numbers. 

“We need, especially:


“The artists, to help us feel the gravity of our predicament, to facilitate our envisioning a more beautiful way of life, and to inspire us to strive for better things;

“The scientists and engineers, to find solutions, inventions, new ideas that can rapidly transform our way of life;sustainable-business

“The designers, to redesign virtually everything, and to fuse beauty and functionality in a transformed world;

“The business people, to reimagine and redirect the flows of money and investment and talent in ways that can recreate the world while enhanc- ing global prosperity;

503_400_occupy_painting“The activists, to call attention to those issues about which societies at large are in denial or unable to act because of systemic or hegemonic forces;

“The average citizens, so-called, to reimagine themselves as global citi- zens, to enthusiastically support change efforts, and to dare to reach for their own aspirations for a better world;

“The professionals, so-called, such as those in health care or the law or international development, to change the standards of practice in their profession and to lend their considerable weight to a general movement for change;

“The politicians, to motivate us with inspiring rhetoric, to frame new policies that encourage transformation, and to tear down obstacles to innovation and transformation;

“The educators, to prepare current and future generations for a great responsibility: directing human development toward sustainability, and beyond.susteduc

“If a critical mass of people in all walks of life seriously take the charge to make transformation happen and if they are supported with widespread communication networks, resources, and incentives, then transformation will happen, and sustainability will become an attainable dream.

“And transformation will enrich us, not impoverish us. It will enrich us spiritually, socially, and economically. We will know our purpose more profoundly, live together more compassionately, and develop wealth more equitably. There is so much work to be done that there will be jobs for all the generations of life to come after us.”               Note: the long quote above is from “Sustainability is Dead.

Sustainability Education in Food and Farming

Those of us who teach in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture are inspired by the words of Alan AtKisson and are working to help students learn how to navigate in this rapidly changing world.  We have created new classes such as Agricultural Leadership and Community Education and Tools for Life, and we encourage students to gain real-world experience through internships and apprenticeships.

The Sustainable Food and Farming major at UMass helps prepare a student for both life and livelihood. 

Many of us believe that the work of our new School of Earth and Sustainability is to create an educational environment in which students may acquire information, knowledge, and wisdom.  In addition to gaining basic skills and subject matter knowledge, students must be guided to clarify their core values, and to examine their behavior in the context of these values.  In this process students  are challenged to discover their place as citizens of the world, by constructing a sense of self beyond the individual-self to include the family-self, community-self, and global-self.

sfebannerThis approach seems to have made the Sustainable Food and Farming major attractive to many students who search to find meaning in their lives, their studies, and their intended careers.  In fact, this major has grown from just 5 students to over 150 in the past 10 years.

The Sustainable Food and Farming major provides students with the opportunity to build their own major, guided by experienced faculty who help them make choices among a diverse array of course offerings.  In addition to the traditional career path of food production and marketing, students may explore the rapidly growing interest areas of food and land policy, as well as community-based agricultural education, permaculture, urban agriculture, and much more. CurriculumColor

The Stockbridge School of Agriculture is pleased to be one of the three founding departments in the new College of Earth and Sustainability, as well as an integral part of the history of UMass dating back 150 years to Mass Aggie.  The story of the remarkable growth of the Sustainable Food and Farming major and the opportunities available to students today may be found on our blog page.

Its surely a good time to be a Stockie!



If you want to learn more about the major, check us out here: SFF Major at UMass.  Or check out our ONLINE classes in Sustainable Food and Farming which will allow you to earn a Certificate or Associate of Sciences degree fully online.


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