UMass Instructor and Program Coordinator of the Sustainable Food and Farming B.S. degree program in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture, Sarah Berquist, was chosen as the 2019 recipient of the Massachusetts Distinguished Service Award by Phi Kappa Phi, the nation’s oldest, largest, and most selective all-discipline honor society. According to society President, Professor Theresa Y. Austin, the UMass Chapter recognized Ms. Berquist for her outstanding service to the University in ways that are consistent with the Society’s motto of “Let the love of learning rule.”
With a focus on farm-based education and social equity in the food system, Berquist connects her passion for teaching with community engagement through hands-on projects that are actively working toward a more just and sustainable food system. In collaboration with the UMass Student Farm, she co-founded and manages the Food for All Program that donated 10,000 pounds of recovered “excess” and “seconds” produce in 2018 to the local relief organizations Not Bread Alone and Amherst Survival Center. She also mentors students that design and execute garden-based lessons with K-6 grade students with the School Garden Program at Amherst Regional Public Schools.
On a national scale, Sarah serves as Chair of the Sustainable Agriculture Education Association and is currently working with other SAEA members to champion innovative educational approaches for sustainable agriculture through research and teaching practices that are rooted in social equity.
Berquist is recognized as an outstanding teacher and adviser by the students in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture. Majors in the program know that her courses help equip them with practical life skills such as the ability to grow their own food, gain confidence in leading others, and become skilled at community organizing and critical thinking. Her love of learning is contagious as evidenced by this statement from one of the seniors in the program.
“I first met Sarah Berquist the Fall before enrolling at the University of Massachusetts. I was still applying to colleges at the time and had no more interest in Sustainable Food and Farming at UMass than any of the other agriculture programs I had researched. Upon my visit, I decided to opt out of the traditional college tour and instead I emailed Sarah to ask for a meeting. What was supposed to be a 30-minute meeting turned into a four-hour conversation. That was the day I fell in love with the University of Massachusetts.”
As a former student in the program herself, Sarah Berquist is passionate about providing students with challenges and opportunities that build on the student’s own love of learning. She draws on a diverse educational theories, pedagogies and frameworks for contemplation, integration and transformation, cultivating patience, presence, and compassion for both herself and others.
Berquist will be honored at the annual Initiation Ceremony for the Massachusetts Chapter of Phi Kappa Phi at the University of Massachusetts Campus Center on March 31, 2019.