Agroecology from A to Z

Adventures in Agroecology and Food Systems


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Las Milpitas de Cottonwood Farm, Tucson, AZ

While attending the 2012 Border Food Summit in Rio Rico, AZ, I got to participate in an urban agriculture tour of Tuscon, where we visited Las Milpitas de Cottonwood Farm, a project of the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. I’m so thrilled to see this innovative project featured on NPR today! You can learn more about the farm on their Facebook page and view some video I took of the tour where we learned about management of desert soils for vegetable production, chicken keeping, composting and a composting toilet pilot project.

As a manure-o-phile I’ll be closely following the news on the composting toilet project that Las Milpitas is participating in. Check out the urban agriculture blog [chik-uh n dik-shuh n] for more detail on this exciting project. I think making well-designed composting toilets legal in Pima County will provide a huge benefit in both water and soil conservation. My friend Sasha Kramer co-founded a non-profit in Haiti focused on composting human waste and using the finished compost for food production. If SOIL can safely compost human waste during a cholera epidemic, then composting toilets should be a viable option everywhere!

Las Milpitas de Cottonwood Farm September 2012

Las Milpitas de Cottonwood Farm September 2012

Urban chickens, a creative use of 5 gallon buckets

Urban chickens, a creative use of 5 gallon buckets

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Keyhole bed preparation in desert soils (rain catchment in background)

Composting toilet pilot project, initial construction phase

Composting toilet pilot project, initial construction phase

 

 


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SAEA 2012 Integrating concepts of sustainable agriculture in the academic, co-curricular, physical and personal lives of students through the Summer Institute in Sustainable Agriculture at Willamette University’s Zena Farm

One of the talks in the Transformative Food System Programs, Coursework, and Curricula track at the 2012 Sustainable Agriculture Education Association conference was from Jennifer Johns and was titled: “Integrating concepts of sustainable agriculture in the academic, co-curricular, physical and personal lives of students through the Summer Institute in Sustainable Agriculture at Willamette University’s Zena Farm”. You can see the full talk here.

Here’s the student-produced video about the educational programs at Willamette University’s  Zena Farm that Jennifer screened during her talk.

Based on Jennifer’s presentation and her program’s focus on the development of a personal food ethic, I was inspired to incorporate a food values based assignment in my Fall 2012 Security, Equality and Ecology of Global Food Production Class. The reflection I assigned for the first day of class asked students to draft a personal food values statement based on their experiences to date as a member of a food system. And for the last week of class, I asked students to read their original personal food values statement and then reflect on if and how their personal food values had changed over the course of the class. It made for a great in-class discussion and I’m looking forward to doing this assignment again and incorporating something similar into different courses. If you teach sustainable agriculture and/or food systems at the post-secondary level, the SAEA annual/semi-annual conferences provide a unique professional development opportunity.

[Full disclosure, I’ve been involved in conference planning and committee work with the SAEA since the group’s formation in 2007 so my endorsement of the organization is not without bias :-).]

Note: Another great resource for supporting the links between learning about food systems and reflecting on personal values and action is the Northwest Earth Institute’s discussion courses. I took three of these discussion courses with colleagues while I was an AmeriCorps volunteer in the 2000s and really enjoyed them, so much that I started an informal sustainable reading group at Cornell with students and community members when I started grad school. These courses are fun to do on your own with friends and colleagues like a book group and the NWEI is working with higher education institutions to incorporate the discussion courses into food systems courses.

Food systems related discussion courses from the NWEI:

Hungry for Change: Food, Ethics and Sustainability

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