The Gillings Sustainable Agriculture Project: A Gillings Innovative Laboratory


what do you do for a living? An overview of the project
December 31, 2009, 2:58 pm
Filed under: Education, Health, Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

I’ve heard that in England, a question that is almost always asked when you first meet someone is “Where did you go to university?” It allows people to put new introductions into context. Here in the US, I think most people would agree that our version of this question is “What do you do for a living?” For some, it’s an easy answer: teacher, doctor, waitress, lawyer, construction worker, hairstylist, student, the list goes on. For others, like me, it’s a bit more complicated. There is no way to describe my work without explaining The Gillings Sustainable Agriculture Project. And there is no way to describe all that this project entails without going into a rather long monologue in which, depending on whom you’re talking to, the person’s eyes may just glaze over after a while. Other times,  I find myself in amazing conversations with fellow local food enthusiasts who are happy to share their thoughts about sustainable agriculture and offer up questions about the project.

Recently, I’ve been going to a lot of holiday parties. During this time, I’ve also been conducting interviews for this project. I’ve found that in both settings, a lot of people don’t have time to get into a lengthy overview of the Gillings project but would like to learn more about it when they have some time. We are now at the mid-point of the project, just having completed the first of a two-year funding timeframe.  So as we celebrate this halfway mile marker, I’ve written a summary of the major aims that will be helpful for anyone who wants to learn more about the scope of the project. If you want to know  about a specific aim, click on it and you’ll be directed to a bulleted list of what that aim entails; its goals, the research that is currently being done and the research that we plan to conduct as we go into the New Year. The bulleted lists are in no way meant to cover all that the aim involves, but serve as a short overview of what the aim covers.

Aim 1: Case Studies and Documentary Class – How are communities using local food production systems and innovative food distribution networks to create positive community economic development outcomes that can be replicated elsewhere?

Aim 2: Environmental Impacts – How do the environmental impacts of large-scale industrialized farming compare to local, sustainable farming systems?

Aim 3: Nutritional and Health Benefits – Does buying locally increase people’s intake of fruits and vegetables? How do garden curricula in schools affect the way children eat and think about food?

Aim 4: Economic Analysis – Analysis of local food sales through farmers markets and development of a geolocator tool for sitting markets.

Aim 5: Policy Analysis – Conduct an analysis to determine the best approach to presenting and disseminating agriculture and food systems impact assessment data to maximize the potential for policy influence.

I hope this summary of the major aims of The Gillings Sustainable Agriculture Project is helpful. I know it’s a lot to pack into one project, but as research that is truly integrating a number of academic fields, issues and collective solutions, the project covers a lot of ground. I’ll be sure to continue to use the blog to update you on our process and findings as we head into the second year of funding. Happy New Year!

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