Back in March, the SFF advising team hosted “Searching for Jobs in SFF,” a Professional Development event aimed at sharing the nitty gritty details of what job-hunting in the field of sustainable agriculture and food systems looks like. Because Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems is an emerging field, there are so many directions and steps one can take to find and/or create good work for themselves.
We had a great turnout with about 20 students, peer advisor Alexeya O’Brien, and faculty members, including: Lisa Depiano, Sarah Berquist, John Gerber, Amanda Brown, and Nikki Burton. As a group, Sarah led us in an examination of relevant, current, professional opportunities across our four different concentrations in SFF (production, permaculture, food justice, agricultural education). We were lucky to hear from Amanda and Nikki about their experiences working in production, and what they look for when they are hiring…invaluable advice!
We then split up into focus areas, and did some small group analysis of two to three positions relevant to students’ current interest. Lisa led the permaculture group, Nikki led the production room, and Sarah and John led the Ag Ed/Food Justice group. As small groups, we discussed preferred and desired qualifications for different tiered positions. We identified reach positions, and made note of what type of experience we would need to gain, to obtain one of those reach positions in the future. Students brainstormed internships, and how to evaluate and advocate for fair pay while searching for an internship.
Lisa and John talked to us about the importance of building relationships, and our community involvement. While this was an event aimed at covering the nitty gritty of job searching, we took some time to think about our core values because as Sarah reminded us, “we do our best work when our work aligns with our values.” The combination of applying practical job-hunting skills, with an examination of what is truly important to us, resulted in a meaningful night of thinking about what the future holds post-graduation.
The nitty gritty nature of our workshop enabled students to take home some practical tools to help begin and organize their job hunt. Students left with a basic template to keep track of potential job opportunities, and a compilation of links to job databases with which SFF students have found success. The path post-college looks different for all SFFers, but having a conversation to know we are not alone in this process, and we have plenty of people to support us was a real benefit of this event. SFF faculty really care about their students, and our students really care about this work. The fact that students and faculty took time out of their busy schedules to come talk about jobs on a Wednesday evening on Zoom during dinner time is a testament to the caring and committed nature of both our students and teachers. Thanks for a great evening, SFF!
The end of Spring Semester is the time of year when “change is in the air.” Days are getting warmer. We have lots of daylight and we’ve even been threatened by a few late afternoon thunderclouds. Of course, the annual change of seasons is dwarfed by the significant life change those of you who are graduating college are experiencing. Leaving college is a big deal – right up there with going to college, getting married, having children, changing jobs or careers, retirement – you know, the big changes. Continue reading An open letter to graduating seniors→
The UMass Stockbridge School of Agriculture has offered Associate of Science degrees in “practical agriculture” since 1918. Beginning in September 2016, we will welcome our first online class to Stockbridge by offering a fully online 60-credit Associate of Science degree in Sustainable Food and Farming!
This program will expand upon the successful 15-credit Certificate Program in Sustainable Food and Farming which currently has more than 750 students from all over the world. Unlike other agricultural certificate programs, students in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture may select from a diverse array of online classes from the “basics” of Soil Science and Botany to more specialized courses in Backyard Homesteading, Global Food Systems, and Urban Agriculture, just to name a few. The full list of courses currently offered online may be found here:
The requirements for the online degree will be comparable to the on campus A.S. program in Sustainable Food and Farming. Students will earn academic credit toward their degree by taking high quality academic courses as well as gaining experience farming and marketing, working for non-profit organizations in food advocacy and community development, or agricultural education for example.
Applications will be available in January 2016. To be put on a mailing list to be kept informed, sign up here: ONLINE CLASSES.
Sustainable farming and marketing is a rapidly growing sector of the U.S. economy. Opportunities for new farmers as well as affiliated careers in public policy, advocacy, community development and education continue to grow.
The increasing demand for local and sustainably grown food has created opportunities for college graduates who understand the unique production, processing, and marketing approaches used in sustainable agriculture today. Some people entering the field will go back to their family farms. Many pursue specific interest in local or organic agriculture. Others will create their own opportunities in food marketing, processing, non-profit organizations, food and agricultural associations, or cooperative businesses. Some graduates plan on homesteading while pursuing employment in other fields.
The University of Massachusetts Stockbridge School of Agriculture has been at the heart of training and education in this broad network of food and farming systems since the establishment of “Mass Aggie” over 150 years ago. More recently, Stockbridge has experienced an increased demand among residential students at UMass in the Bachelor of Science degree in Sustainable Food and Farming.
Increasing numbers of mid-career professionals and returning Veterans have found the 15-credit Certificate Program in Sustainable Food and Farming to be an attractive means of gaining education while earning a college credential. These students have turned to the online environment to develop knowledge and skills applicable to the diverse array of work experiences that are part of the food chain – from production, processing, and delivery to policy, regulation, and education.
The Online Associate of Science Degree in Sustainable Food and Farming Certificate provides a reasonable option for those who wish to study sustainable food and farming but are not ready or able to make a commitment to an on campus degree program. Students will acquire a basic knowledge of plant and soil sciences along with training in agricultural techniques, community development, public policy, and education. The major offers flexibility in designing a personal program of study, allowing students to focus on specific career objectives.
The Online Associate of Science Degree in Sustainable Food and Farming is an academic program of the UMass Division of Continuing and Professional Education and the Stockbridge School of Agriculture. All students pursuing the degree must be admitted to the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Information on the application process will be released in January 2016. Students interested in pursuing the online certificate, but not a degree may simply register with a simple form here: Register for the Online Certificate.
Tuition and Fees
All online classes are offered through the University of Massachusetts Division of Continuing and Professional Education. Most classes cost $472 per credit. In addition, there is a $45 per semester registration fee.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
Investing in your education is a significant financial decision. Our Continuing and Professional Education Financial Aid Office can help make that investment a little easier through:
Online Associate of Science students will be assigned an adviser to help select courses and make progress toward graduation. If you have questions in advance, you may contact the A.S. Online Program Coordinator, Renee Ciulla.
Online Course Delivery
Courses taken online are equivalent to the same courses taken at the UMass campus in almost every way including: assignments, learning objectives, discussions, projects, exams, and the degree of rigor. The online learning environment provides opportunities to interact with other students from around the world as well as the course instructor. The “classroom” environment is engaging and dynamic and a community of learners often emerges during the class. Technical support for online education is available “24/7”, when you need it! As an online student you can “go to class” anytime, check out the course readings, chat with fellow classmates post comments to a threaded discussion board, submit assignments, and work on projects. Instructors make every effort to provide a meaningful educational experience using the online format and do so in a way that works for busy adults.
In general, to be successful accessing an online class you must:
have access to a personal computer (Mac or Windows) with at least 128MB RAM (256MB preferred)
be familiar with basic computer skills
be connected to the internet
have an e-mail program and account (provided)
have at least a 56 kbps modem (DSL or Broadband Cable recommended)
have a Java capable browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox or Safari)
You are invited to stop by the UMass Pollinator Garden at the Agricultural Learning Center to see several beautiful plantings that provide habitat and feed for both native and honey bees. The garden was sponsored by the Massachusetts State Grange and is manged by Professor Stephen Herbert, a faculty member in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture. Among the many types of plantings on display, I think the butterfly and hummingbird hedgerow is my favorite.
The red flower is Bee Balm, also known as “patriots tea” because it was used as a tea-substitute after the American Colonists dumped British tea in Boston Harbor!
Bees and other pollinators will also be attracted to productive fruit plantings.
If you have the space, the butterfly and hummingbird seed mix makes a nice looking pasture of wildflowers.
Below is short video of Professor Herbert, welcoming you to the garden!
The garden is located behind the Wysocki House at 911 North Pleasant St. in North Amherst, MA. You may park in the Wysocki parking lot and walk back toward the field. Be sure and say hello and ask questions from the students and faculty who are often working on the site!
World’s challenges demand science changes — and fast, experts say
The world has little use — and precious little time — for detached experts.
A group of scientists — each of them experts — makes a compelling case in this week’s Science Magazine that the growing global challenges has rendered sharply segregated expertise obsolete.
Disciplinary approaches to crises like air pollution, biodiversity loss, climate change, food insecurity, and energy and water shortages, are not only ineffective, but also making many of these crises worse because of counterproductive interactions and unintended consequences, said Jianguo “Jack” Liu, lead author of the paper “Systems Integration for Global Sustainability.” He also is Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability and director of the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability (CSIS) at Michigan State University (MSU).
“The real world is integrated,” Liu said. “Artificially breaking down the real world into separate pieces has caused many global problems. Solving these problems requires systems integration — holistic approaches to integrate various pieces of the real world at different organizational levels, across space and over time.”
Sustainability demands new methods
The paper’s authors, themselves with experience spanning agriculture, biodiversity, climate change, ecology, economics, energy, environment, food security, trade, water, and more, in essence paint a new paradigm of research that crosses boundaries among natural and social science disciplines, as well as other disciplines such as engineering and medical sciences.
Using examples that are both far-flung and tightly intertwined, these scientists show how systems integration can tackle the complex world, from unexpected impacts of biofuels to hidden roles of virtual resources such as virtual water.
The paper’s first illustration wraps Brazil, China, the Caribbean and Saharan Africa into an example of how the world demands to be approached not just for its singular qualities, but for its lack of boundaries over time, distance or the organizational levels humankind imposes.
The rapidly growing food export to China from Brazil destroys tropical forests and changes food markets in other parts of the world, including the Caribbean and Africa. Agricultural practices in the Sahara Desert in Africa stir up dust which enters the atmosphere and floats as far as the Caribbean. That African dust has been shown to contribute to coral reef decline and increased asthma rates in the Caribbean. It also affects China and Brazil that have made heavy investment in Caribbean tourism, infrastructure, and transportation. All these interactions, and the many more that exist in one example, defy borders both on maps and in academic disciplines.
Yet conventional research and decision-making often have taken place within separate disciplines or sectors. The paper notes that one of the systems integration frameworks — human-nature nexuses — “help anticipate otherwise unforeseen consequences, evaluate tradeoffs, produce co-benefits and allow the different and often competing interests to seek a common ground.” For example, the energy-food nexus considers both the effects of energy on food production, processing, transporting, and consumption, and the effects of food production, like corn, on the generation of energy, such as ethanol.
Other systems integration frameworks also bring multiple aspects of human-nature interactions together. Natural systems provide benefits like clean water and food to people, but human activities often inflict harm on natural systems. Considering a variety of benefits and costs simultaneously can help evaluate trade-offs and synergies among them. The environmental footprints framework helps quantify resources consumed and wastes generated by people.
Telecoupling — a way to make sense of a complex world
Many studies on sustainability have focused on one place, but the world is increasingly “telecoupled” — a term which embraces socioeconomic and environmental interactions over distances, sometimes several thousand miles away. For example, the large amount of coal from Australia sold to far-away markets like Japan, the European Union and Brazil affects not only those markets, but has global impacts far beyond. The money and environmental impacts such as CO2 emissions that flow with the coal, along with the mechanisms of transporting and burning the fossil fuel, spill over to countries between the partners.
Acknowledging that everything must be integrated is critical for scientific advances and effective policies, the authors say. So is the engagement between researchers and stakeholders. For example, Liu has partnered with environmental and social scientists to show how policies in China to curb human’s role in deforestation and panda habitat degradation were strengthened by enlisting nature reserve residents to receive subsidies to monitor the forests. The innovations were spurred by careful observation of the push-and-pull dynamics of managing a system to allow both people and the environment to thrive.
The paper says that effective policies and management for global sustainability needs the human and the natural systems to be more integrated across multiple spatial and temporal and awauthors think it is essential to quantify human-nature feedbacks and spillover systems. Science has largely ignored these, but they can have profound impacts on sustainability and human well-being.
It is time to integrate all disciplines for fundamental discoveries and synergetic solutions because of increasingly connected world challenges, Liu said.
“Furthermore, the world no longer has the luxury of the past, when there were fewer people on the planet and resources were more abundant,” Liu said. This will require funding agencies and universities to make more drastic changes to alter the reward mechanisms and transform the scientific community from isolated experts to integrated scholars.”
In a special arrangement with the Stockbridge School of Agriculture, The Farm School in Athol, Massachusetts, is offering students the opportunity to attend its year–long Learn to Farm training program while receiving college credit.
Now in its 13th year, the Learn to Farm program is a licensed, full time, 5 day/week, live-in, tuition-based training program that packs a tremendous amount of experience into a year and turns out graduates who go on to farm successfully.
Forestry, animal husbandry, carpentry, mechanics, business planning, marketing and organic vegetable production are among the practical skills that are introduced and then practiced over all four seasons in the context of a commercial operation that includes a working forest, a 200 member vegetable CSA and a 50 member meat CSA.
Under this special arrangement, The Farm School will provide scholarship assistance so that each accepted student will pay no more than what he or she currently pays for tuition + room + board at UMass while receiving 12 credits for each of the Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 semesters from UMass. If you are interested, first check with John Gerber to make sure you can fulfill the minimum requirements for the Sustainable Food and Farming major with this plan. You must continue to be enrolled in UMass to take advantage of this opportunity.
Credits may be earned as:
STOCKSCH 498 E – Student Farming Enterprise (6 credits)
STOCKSCH 396 – Independent Study (6 credits)
STOCKSCH 398 E – Student Farming Enterprise (6 credits)
STOCKSCH 496 – Independent Study (6 credits)
Amanda Brown will supervise the Student Farming Enterprise class and John Gerber will supervise the Independent Study.
Please visit The Farm School for a detailed program description and stories from some of its over 100 graduates. And feel free to contact Patrick Connors at The Farm School with questions about the program.
If interested, you must apply directly to The Farm School online. You will remain enrolled as a full time UMass student during the fall and spring semesters but your classes will all be part of your Farm School experience. Please note that you should list at least one UMass faculty member or instructor as a reference. Rolling admissions will be capped at 5 accepted students.
AMHERST — Food-related programs at the University of Massachusetts Amherst will receive $1.7 million of federal dough from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Congressman James McGovern announced at an event on campus Wednesday.
The money will be directed to programs detecting harmful bacteria and minerals on food, developing a new safer type of food packaging and working with Massachusetts farmers to produce different crops popular with immigrant groups in the state.
“I’m proud to be a strong supporter of science and research and of this incredible university,” McGovern said. “I’m excited about the positive impact your research can have in our society.”
(In addition to support for the Food Science Department)…. the final grant is $250,000 from the USDA’s Food Insecurity Incentive program that will support Frank Mangan and Zoraia Barros of the ethnic crops program at the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at UMass. That program teaches local farmers to grow healthy foods popular with some low-income, immigrant groups in the state.
McGovern expressed a personal commitment to the grant supporting crop development for immigrants, which is a part of a larger $3.4 million grant supporting the state’s low-income food program and other issues addressed by the state Department of Transitional Assistance.
“I sit on the agriculture committee because I am very concerned about the issue of hunger and food insecurity in this country,” McGovern said. “I believe hunger is a solvable problem.”
Barros, an urban agriculture specialist at the Stockbridge School, said the supported program would promote “weird-looking” vegetables among local farmers.
“In immigrant communities, they want what they want — they want the vegetables they are used to and that they used to eat in their country,” Barros said.
Stockbridge does research on those vegetables, including red and green Brazilian eggplants, and passes advice on to growers so they can do it themselves and then sell the produce at farmers markets where immigrants shop. That way, they have access to fresh fruits and vegetables with which they are familiar, Barros said.
Different growers are near different immigrant populations, and the Stockbridge School works to connect those growers with foods in demand by those immigrant communities, she said.
Mangan, also of the Stockbridge School, said $1.25 million of the $3.4 million Food Insecurity Incentive grant will go toward the state’s SNAP program, formerly known as food stamps, and will help low-income people buy food at places like farmers’ markets.
Latinos make up 62 percent of the public school population in Springfield and 80 percent in Holyoke, Mangan said. Finding nutritious foods that are popular with these populations is important work, he said.
Lili He, the project leader on the programs to detect pathogens and harmful chemicals in food, said the grants announced Wednesday would go toward buying equipment and hiring student researchers to complete her research.
“This is the first time we have people here to broadcast our work,” she said. “It feels very great, very honorable.”
Steve Goodwin, dean of the College of Natural Sciences, said the UMass food science department is the best in the world, and that its research touched on food production, distribution, safety and security.
“All are issues becoming increasingly important on our campus,” he said. “The future of food science at the university is really bright.”
Original Post. Dave Eisenstadter can be reached at email@example.com.