Careers in a Sustainable Food System
There are increasingly more opportunities available for people who are interested in contributing to a more sustainable food system by becoming farmers, cooks, food writers, policymakers, organizers, lawyers, small business owners, urban and regional planners, food distributors, grocers, millers, organic certifiers, etc. Use this resource to do research and to network with people who are working in the field you are interested in. Come in to the Piper Center to learn more about ways you can connect with experiential learning opportunities related to sustainable agriculture as a student and after you graduate.
ST. OLAF & NORTHFIELD AREA OPPORTUNITIES
There are a variety of progams available at St. Olaf and in the Northfield area that can help you connect with students and community members who are interested in sustainable agriculture.
- StoGrow Organic Farm
- BASC (Bon Appetit Student Coalition)
- BARN! (Becoming Agricultural Revolutionaries Now!)
- Wendell Berry House (contact Laura Carpenter)
- Innovation Scholars (SEEDS internship)
- Northfield Food Action Network
- HECUA Sustainable Food Systems Summer Program
Spend some time volunteering or doing an internship on a farm, even if you don’t plan on becoming a farmer. This could be a summer internship, a traveling experience, or a long-term position. It is important to know your region, how farmers work and the obstacles they face. If you are a graduating senior, consider taking a gap year to gain more experience in the field you’re interested in. Whatever your interest, experience and making connections is critical. The following is a list of reputable databases that can help you connect to farming and other experiences, either for short-term or long-term volunteer work, internships, or employment. Check out these tips on how to find sustainable agriculture-related jobs from the Green Collar Blog.
This is a fantastic database that connects people with organic farmers, urban gardeners, green builders, renewable energy experts, policy crafters, and non-profit organizations. You can search by opportunity (short-term, long-term internships, employment, academic degrees, training programs), place, and type of experience (diary, urban, vegetable, livestock, green building, etc.).
Non-profit organizations post internships, volunteer and job opportunities on idealist.org.
This directory of on-the-job learning opportunities in sustainable and organic agriculture in the U.S. (and some in Canada) has been published since 1989 as a tool to help farmers and apprentices connect with each other.
Sustainable Agriculture Education Association
A list of current professional positions, garden and farm positions, and apprenticeships and internships in sustainable agriculture.
WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms)
Farm in the USA or abroad. Length of stay is very flexible and varies depending on the farm.
Terra Madre Network: Slow Food International
Connect with food communities, cooks and universities affiliated with Slow Food International.
There are a number of service programs that will give you experience in non-profit work or farming. Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest, Lutheran Volunteer Corps, AmeriCorps and the Northwest Service Academy have positions that include farmers’ market training and working in a L’Arche community which involves gardening with people who have disabilities. Camphill communities are similar to L’Arche and they often offer apprenticeships. Peace Corps and the Peace Corps Masters International Program offer opportunities to learn about sustainable agriculture abroad.
Keep an eye out for the new FoodCorps program: a yearlong term of public service in school food systems. Once stationed, FoodCorps members will build Farm to School supply chains, expand food system and nutrition education programs, and build and tend school food gardens.
GRADUATE SCHOOL OPTIONS
Recently, graduate schools have developed programs that directly relate to sustainable agriculture. The following is a list of some prominent programs. Other degrees could include policy, law, urban planning, history, etc. Check out this link to discover other educational and training opportunities in sustainable agriculture around the country.
- Iowa State University: Graduate program in sustainable agriculture
- University of Minnesota: Minor in Sustainable Agricultural Systems
- UW Madison Department of Horticulture: Organic Sustainable Production
- UW Madison: Agroecology
- MN State Fergus Falls: New program in sustainable agriculture
- NYU Steinhardt: Master's Program in Food Studies
- University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy (Fulbright available for one program)
SUSTAINABLE FARMING ORGANIZATIONS
Get to know the prominent organizations in your region that are instrumental in developing more sustainable food systems. Learn about the types of programs they offer in order to understand the variety of careers that are available in this field. They often list job opening or internships, host workshops, conferences, etc. Sign up to be on their email list. The following is a list of some of the major organizations in the Midwest and some national programs to get to know.
Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES)
MOSES serves farmers striving to produce high-quality, healthful food using organic and sustainable techniques. MOSES provides a diverse menu of free and affordable resources for farmers interested in learning more about organic farming. MOSES is best known for organizing the largest organic farming conference in the country, the Organic Farming Conference in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.
Renewing the Countryside
Renewing the Countryside strengthens rural areas by championing rural communities, farmers, artists, entrepreneurs, educators, activists and other people who are renewing the countryside through sustainable and innovative initiatives, businesses, and projects. They do this by sharing stories of rural renewal, building awareness and support for sustainable endeavors, connecting people interested in sustainable rural development to each other, providing practical assistance and networking opportunities for those working to improve rural America, and fostering connections between urban and rural people.
Land Stewardship Project
The Land Stewardship Project (LSP) is a private, nonprofit organization founded in 1982 to foster an ethic of stewardship for farmland, to promote sustainable agriculture and to develop sustainable communities. LSP is a grassroots membership organization made up of farmers, as well as rural and urban residents working together to secure a healthful food supply, preserve soil, water and wildlife, support diversified, profitable family-sized farms, organize communities for positive change, hold corporations and government accountable, and create a new sustainable vision for our food and agriculture system. Their work is currently concentrated in the following four areas: Policy & Organizing, Farm Beginnings (see below for more details), Community Based Food & Economic Development, and Stewardship Science.
The Minnesota Grown Program is a statewide partnership between the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and Minnesotans who grow or raise specialty crops and livestock. The program was created over 20 years ago at the request of specialty crop growers in search of a way to differentiate their produce from what was being shipped in from thousands of miles away.
Sustainable Farming Association
The Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota supports the development and enhancement of sustainable farming systems through innovation, demonstration, education, and farmer-to-farmer networking. Join their facebook page to have access to internship opportunities.
Farm-to-School connects schools (K-12) and local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities, and supporting local and regional farmers. Regional Lead Agencies in eight regions of the country have been established to lead farm-to-school efforts in the states that comprise the regions.
Slow Food International and Slow Food USA
Slow Food is a non-profit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization that was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world. To do that, Slow Food brings together pleasure and responsibility, and makes them inseparable.
Sustainable Agriculture Education Association
The SAEA champions innovative educational approaches for sustainable agriculture through the development, application, and research of teaching and learning practices.
If you're serious about farming, you might want to consider enrolling in a farmer training program at some point in the future.
Upper Midwest Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT): Illinois/Wisconsin
The Upper Midwest CRAFT is an alliance of more than 30 biodynamic and organic farmers in the Chicago, Madison, and Milwaukee areas. The purpose of the program is to pool the region's resources to strengthen a farm intern's awareness of the nature and requirement of farming/gardening. Monthly workshops are held at area farms on a variety of topics; plus a calendar of other regional farm events is distributed to all participants. CRAFT welcomes trainees with all levels of experience, whether you've never farmed before, you have significant experience and need advanced training, or you're an established farmer seeking to transition to sustainable agriculture. CRAFT trainees include rural and urban residents, recent immigrants, and a high percentage of women. Many get involved through internships on CRAFT member farms. Note: There are regional CRAFT groups throughout the country.
The following is a list of more intensive classes that will help develop your farm business plan if you intend to start your own farm one day. Farm Beginnings is a farm business training course that is offered on a regional basis. Two well-established programs in the Midwest are the courses offered through the Land Stewardship Project (Minnesota) and the Angelic Organics Learning Center (Wisconsin/Illinois).
Farm Beginnings (Land Stewardship Project)
Farm Beginnings is a Land Stewardship Project initiative that provides opportunities for beginning and transitioning farmers to learn firsthand about values clarification and goal setting, whole farm planning, business plan development, and low-cost, sustainable farming methods. Farm Beginnings provides 36 hours of training and hands-on learning opportunities in the form of classroom sessions, farm tours and mentorships. It is a year-long training and support effort.
Stateline Farm Beginnings (In collaboration with Angelic Organics)
Farm Beginnings is a business training course that helps new and emerging farmers develop a strategic farm business plan. The one-year Stateline Farm Beginnings® program has three components: Winter course (October to March): ten business planning sessions that focus on goal-setting and planning for profit. CRAFT monthly field day workshops (April to October) at sustainable farms around the region and discounts on workshops offered through their partner Michael Fields Agricultural Institute. Mentoring from a successful sustainable farmer in your field of interest.
Michael Fields Agricultural Institute
Michael Fields Agricultural Institute is devoted to developing an agriculture that can sustain the land and its resources. As a public non-profit organization, it strives to revitalize farming through research, education, technical assistance and public policy. Michael Fields Agricultural Institute is training the next generation of sustainable farmers. Join us in East Troy, Wisconsin where beginning farmers and advanced growers develop the skills and competencies they need to take their agricultural careers to the next level. At Michael Fields, you will engage with our Farmer Faculty in interactive workshops and on-site field training.