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Cultivating Citizens through Community-Engaged Food Education and Action: The Sustainable Agriculture Project at UMD (SAP@UMD) David Syring, Assistant Professor of Anthropology ( University of Minnesota Duluth. A developing faculty, student, staff and community collaborative

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A developing faculty, student, staff and community collaborative

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Cultivating Citizens through Community-Engaged Food Education and Action: The Sustainable Agriculture Project at UMD (SAP@UMD)David Syring, Assistant Professor of Anthropology ( of Minnesota Duluth

A developing faculty, student, staff and community collaborative

  • Research, Teaching, Community Engagement
  • Food and Citizenship Skills as Liberal Arts Skills
  • Community Partner in Social & Individual Sustainability
  • Promote Global knowledge via Local Engagement
my working definition an educated citizen someone who
My working definition:An educated citizen = someone who…
  • Knows how to investigate and understand the systems (political, economic, social, cultural, environmental, etc.) in which he or she is enmeshed.
  • Knows how to act both within these systems and in challenge to them to make his or her individual life, and our collective lives more whole/healthy/in line with the values to which we individually and collectively aspire.
http www foodandtechconnect com site wp content uploads 2010 07 food system map4 jpg
gateway assignment local class meal
Gateway Assignment: Local Class Meal
  • As a culmination to our investigations in the first part of the semester into whether place matters as relates to food, we will share a meal prepared using as much locally produced food as possible. Each team will be responsible for creating at least TWO dishes in which the primary ingredients come from local sources. Here we will use the definition of food coming from within the Western Lake Superior Foodshed as defined by the Superior Grown initiative, and used in the “Assessing the Regional Food System” research project described in the second week of class. Bring sufficient quantities for approximately 30 people to try small samples of each dish. You will receive a prompt for a reflective essay to be written following the meal.

Note: You will need to be creative in designing your dishes, as the middle of winter is obviously a difficult time to find fresh locally produced foods. However, there are ample possibilities here, including frozen meats (bison, beef, venison) and fish; locally harvested wild rice and maple syrup; canned or processed foods such as local jams/preserves/sauerkraut, etc.; locally produced cheeses; local hydroponically raised vegetables, etc.

  • BUT, you will have to get to know our regional community in a different way in order to find these things!
from student essay reflections on local class meal
from Student Essay: Reflections on Local Class Meal
  • How much more rewarding and uplifting is shaking the hand and becoming acquainted with the grower of your food?
  • Is it not worth those moments when you receive a few extra carrots or parsnips or when you are handed a home recipe to choose local food?
  • Wouldn’t you like the chance of having a say in the variety of vegetables grown next season or receive tips specifically directed towards this year’s harvest?

student reflection civic embeddedness of food
Student reflection: Civic Embeddedness of Food
  • The experience was only further enhanced by the sharing of each group’s experience in their search for each local food item. Hearing about where food comes from, especially during the act of consumption, is special and certainly too often overlooked. Eating the blueberries and the trout gathered and caught by the hands of one’s classmates is much more satisfying than consuming those shipped hundreds of miles to be placed in a freezer with a “Price Cut” sign floating nearby.
  • The very act of purchasing and eating local food is intertwined with the concept of community. In my opinion, it is difficult to eat locally without forming bonds with those you are buying your food from. It is the act of knowing exactly where your food comes from, how it is grown, and processed that makes the experience of eating more fulfilling than shopping at a grocery store in which you blaze through the numerous aisles, hardly glancing at the items you are purchasing.
    • Jill Decker, 2011
sap@umd faculty collaborative
SAP@UMD Faculty Collaborative
  • Randel Hanson, Geography (Coordinator)
    • Environmental studies, sustainability, food systems
  • Cindy Hale, NRRI
    • Ecologist, Graduate Faculty, Farmer
  • Pat Farrell, Geography
    • Soils, Conservation
  • David Syring, Anthropology
    • Anthropology, Ethnobotany, “farmer-in-development”
  • Stacey Stark, Geography
    • Geographic Information Systems
  • Kathryn Milun, Cultural Studies
    • Commons research
  • NjokiKamau, Women’s Studies
    • Women and globalization, food justice
sap@umd collaborators staff
SAP@UMD Collaborators: Staff
  • Candice Richards, Associate Director
    • Facilities Management
  • Claudia Engelmeier, Buyer Supervisor
    • UMD Food/Vending Services
  • Deb Shubat, Sr Research Plot Technician
    • Greenhouse Manager, Farmer, Botany Instructor
  • Michelle Hargrave, Director
    • Office of Civic Engagement
  • Others
sap@umd networks
SAP@UMD Networks
  • UMD
    • Office of Civic Engagement, Office of Sustainability, Facilities and Management, University for Seniors, Continuing Education, others
  • University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
    • Institute for Advanced Study; Healthy Foods, Healthy Lives Institute; Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education
  • Community Collaborators
    • Duluth Community Garden Program, Lake Superior Sustainable Farming Association, Whole Foods Coop, Sustainable Twin Ports, Community Action Duluth—Seeds of Success Project, others
field site
Field Site

UMD Enterprise

Gardens Site

UMD Heritage


SAP Web site:

sap@umd research
SAP@UMD –Research

Funded (Only a small sample, special focus on projects with students involved)

  • Defining the Agricultural Landscape of the Western Lake Superior Region – Healthy Foods, Healthy Lives Institute, U of MN
  • ‘The New Food Regionalism’ , Faculty Seminar for Spring, 2011, Institute for Advanced Studies
  • Eating is an Agri-cultural Act: Understanding Food Systems from the Perspective of Citizens Who Eat and Exploring Policy Possibilities for Local Units of Government – Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (UM Twin Cities)
community engagement
Community Engagement
  • Superior Grown Food Summit, November, 2009
  • Spin-off project: Duluth Community Farm
  • Public speaker series, 2011: Will Allen as “Big Event”—300+ attendees
  • Creating a learning community around cold hardy fruits within region
  • Fruit Gleaning and Urban Gardening Planning with Community Action Duluth
  • Food systems component ‘Green Jobs Action Planning’ for City of Duluth
  • Edible Landscapes project with UMD Facilities Management
  • Growing food for UMD food system (first planting Spring 2011)
  • Community Education/Workshops/Field Days on food related activities
  • Other Public presentations (Harvest Fest, Sustainable Farming Association Conference, etc.)
  • Newspaper articles/radio & television
our most recent community engagement success

UMD Heritage Orchard wins a community orchard planting

Community cast more than 20,000 votes in May to make us one of 5 communities nation-wide to receive a 50-tree planting and logistical support.

“Big splash” community event funded by Edy’s to be held in fall.

All fruit from trees will be given to the community in ways appropriate to community food needs.

Orchard to serve as education and community engagement venue.

Our most recent community engagement success

New rounds of voting—June and July—10 more communities to receive orchards—all over country—go vote for your local community!

teaching student opportunities
Teaching & Student opportunities
  • Courses in Anthropology, Geography, Cultural Studies, soil testing, ethnobotany, historical research, urban ecology, environmental studies— open invitation for others to join collaborative!
  • Use the extensive archives on history of UMD farm and regional agriculture for student research projects
  • Create a 2011 student-centered one-acre garden – integrating courses, student & staff volunteers, etc.
  • University for Seniors
  • Collaborate on Edible Landscape Project with Facilities & Management
  • Sustainable Development Research Opportunities Program (SDROP)
  • Internships (paid and unpaid) at farm site
  • Spurred creation of Students for Sustainable Agriculture (campus student group)
course engagements anth senior seminar
Course Engagements: Anth Senior Seminar
  • Structure of course = capstone, team-based applied research into a topic of significance for the community.
  • Focus for past two years = regional food systems and sustainability.
this year s teams
This year’s teams
  • Crop Mob Crew
  • Campus Gardens Gurus
  • UMD Food System Folks
  • Terroir Team
  • Cider House Gang
crop mob crew
Crop Mob Crew
  • The intent of this project is for anthropology students to collaborate with community food producers to connect with volunteers who want to provide labor to assist in farming and other food production related activities.
  • Anthropology students will research the concept of crop mobbing and other forms of volunteering labor for food production. They will also identify and collaborate with growers who could productively use volunteer effort to aid in the production of food in our region.
food system folks
Food System Folks
  • The intent of this project is for anthropology students to learn from and collaborate  with Dining Services, Operations and facilities  folks to create a clear map of the UMD food system in terms of system requirements, food sources, processing, consumption, etc.
  • Anthropology students will research the current food system, including what constraints the food services must operate under given regulatory and economic realities. Students will, as well, research examples of steps that other universities and colleges have been able to take towards the goal of relying on more local food growers for food consumption on campus.
analytical approaches to explore related to this project process
Analytical Approaches to Explore Related to this Project/Process
  • State universities as embedded/anchor institutions in regional social/systems change
  • Models of collaboration in practice and theory
  • Boundary work and the roles of university people in relation to active, long-term regional community activism around food.
  • Creation of our “epistemic object”—what are we seeking to know and to teach?