Academics, administrators and students from around the country will pool their brain power this week at UC Santa Cruz to figure out how to teach sustainable agriculture at the college and graduate school level.
As a new generation of students opt to study sustainable agriculture, colleges are stepping up by developing new programs. Nearly 400 people who will shape what colleges offer are gathering this week for the National Sustainable Agriculture Education Association Conference.
Albie Miles is an assistant professor of community food systems at the University of Hawaii and he's one of the conference organizers. Miles points out that when it comes to teaching the food system, no one field has the complete picture.
"There is no one solution to the complex and interrelated problems of environmental degradation, social inequity, issues of labor, availability of food," says Miles. "These are food system problems that a single academic discipline cannot adequately address (nor can it) help a student understand the entire system."
Miles explains that one of the main thrusts of the conference is to encourage an open exchange of ideas, theory and practice across disciplines to develop more holistic models for teaching sustainable agriculture. People who run farmer training programs will be a key part of the conversation.
"Whether you're an academic or involved in farmer training, it's an opportunity to come and talk shop with other people who are your peers in order to develop a new understanding of some best practices that you may not be aware of, from around the nation," says Miles.
That cross-pollination will happen inside the lecture hall and outside in open discussions and hands on workshops.