This isn’t a rhetorical question, I’m being serious here. So, do you know where your food comes from?
Fine, maybe I started this post off too strong but I’m curious how many of my readers know about the long journey it takes for the food you consume to finally end up on your plate. Maybe you start to consider where the bananas you put in your morning smoothie came from? Or maybe you think about where the rice you use in your weekly stir fry was grown? Or maybe all you care about is making sure your local grocery store has all the items in stock that were on your weekly grocery list. No matter what runs through your head when you answer this question, I believe it’s important to at least be aware of the bigger picture.
So, what’s the “bigger picture”?
The bigger picture I speak of is sustainable agriculture and the importance its practices have on the natural environment. According to the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, sustainable agriculture seeks to protect the environment, expand Earth’s natural resource base, and maintain and improve soil quality.
Farming sustainability aims to meet three main goals:
1. Environmental Health: protection of the environment and expansion of the natural resources supply
2. Social and Economic Equity: enhance quality of life for farm families and communities
3. Economic Profitability: sustainment of the economic viability in the local community
The following venn diagram helps to visually categorize the three main sectors of sustainability, or in this case, sustainable agriculture. Take note of the overlap between different circles. Keep in mind that in order for farming practices to be considered sustainable, they must meet all three standards: social, environment, and economic.
Why are you talking about sustainable agricultural practices in the first place?
So here’s the backstory to all this. As a member of the Get Real! Science (GRS) program, I will be partaking in developing a week-long science camp program for middle school students (grades 6-8) in Sodus. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Sodus, it’s a small, rural town located about 35 miles northeast of Rochester, NY right along Lake Ontario. The theme for this year’s science camp is centered around sustainability but more specifically, sustainability issues the community is directly facing.
What kind of work will you be doing?
My group (Cindy and I) are focusing on sustainable agriculture and its relevance to Sodus as a small, rural community. As of right now, we intend on framing our camp on the following essential question: Why do sustainable vs. conventional agricultural practices look different (inputs and outputs)? How can implementing sustainable agriculture practices into small, rural communities like Sodus, benefit their overall ecological and social health? Some of the concepts we plan on further exploring are food miles, ecological footprint, biodiversity, and many more. There are cool online tools that allow one to calculate your own food miles like the Food Miles Calculator or the Ecological Footprint Calculator.
How does this relate to Sodus?
Agriculture is very close to home for Sodus residents. Sodus is full of farms of all kinds but especially apple orchards like at Burnap’s Farm Market. It seems like almost everyone in Sodus has a connection to the local agricultural economy; whether they know someone who owns a family farm or if they work on a farm themselves, farming is a part of Sodus’ unique community and culture. We want to explore all the benefits and potential pitfalls to sourcing food locally.
My camp group aims to create authentic science learning opportunities and activities that are culturally sustaining for the town of Sodus and are grounded in the students’ interests and curiosities.
These are just some of the ideas we have explored thus far and are open to any suggestions or pointers you may have!