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Student farming takes root

UC Davis Student Farm Director Mark Van Horn and some of his students last year, from left, Alexis Fujii, Mary Laurie and Abraham Cazares.

Credit: Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis

UC Davis Student Farm Director Mark Van Horn and some of his students last year, from left, Alexis Fujii, Mary Laurie and Abraham Cazares.

Student interest in sustainable agriculture is surging at colleges across the country.

Why?

Mark Van Horn, director of the UC Davis Student Farm, offers his insights in an interview with UC Food Observer.

Van Horn has seen interest ebb and flow during his three decades at the student farm. A founding member of the Sustainable Agriculture Education Association, Van Horn helped organize the sustainable agriculture and food systems major at UC Davis and has been active in the UC Global Food Initiative, co-authoring an experiential learning report.

“Much of the increased interest is from young people who didn’t grow up in agriculture,” said Van Horn, who recently received the Sustainable Agriculture Education Association’s on-farm educator award named in his honor. “Some are coming from a point of view that there are a lot of problems in the world. Many of the problems they see are related to the fact that many of the things they rely on are produced in ways that are harmful to the environment and to people. They want to break out of buying things that are produced that way. They think, ‘I can’t make things: I can’t make my own car, can’t make my own shoes, but maybe I can grow my own food.’

“This is sometimes the spark. They then might think, ‘I can learn to grow food in a better way, not only for myself, but as a career,’ or, ‘I don’t actually want to farm, but I can have a career that somehow contributes to making a better food system.’”

Read more in the UC Food Observer Q&A with Mark Van Horn.