When it comes to sustainable solutions, University of Minnesota, Duluth students are rolling up their sleeves and digging in. Housed in the UMD’s College of Liberal Arts, the Sustainable Agriculture Project (SAP) faculty collaborative manages a 10-acre organic-transition farm designed to explore sustainable solutions for achieving human needs while maintaining the integrity of healthy, functioning natural systems. The farm hosts more than a 1,000 students a year in paid, internships, coursework or volunteer capacities, exposing them to organic vegetable production methods and other sustainability-oriented projects.
SAP operates via a series of collaborations within the University and the community. UMD’s Dining Services supports the farm by hiring labor and purchasing the produce. A broader goal is to provide learning opportunities for students while exploring how Dining Services can evolve internal systems to integrate fresh, whole foods and expand its procurement from area farmers.
“We are excited by this ‘action research’ collaboration and the social learning that is taking place for all involved,” says Randel Hanson, assistant geography professor and coordinator of the SAP faculty collaborative which includes Pat Farrell, associate professor of geography; Kathryn Milun, associate professor of cultural studies; David Syring, associate professor of sociology/anthropology; Stacey Stark, director of the Geospatial Analysis Center; and Kevin Zak, education instructor.
Other community-based collaborations with the SAP include a Teacher Training Garden used by the Duluth Community Garden Program and the Duluth Public School System to offer educators hands-on skills in building, maintaining, and using school gardens. Other partners include the Intertribal Agriculture Council, the Northeast Beekeepers Association, and the Xerces Society on projects that advance teaching and learning on sustainable practices.
“Our interest in modelling more sustainable, distributed systems for critical infrastructure goes beyond sustainable food production,” says Hanson. With help from UMD’s Office of Sustainability, Facilities Management and departments of civil engineering, electrical engineering and biology, a wind turbine will soon be installed on the farm, modelling farm scale energy production for northeast Minnesota and serving as a research site for students and faculty. Learn more...