Josh Farley: Creating Sustainable Solutions to an Ecological Crisis

CDAE Professor Works in Brazil for Agroecological Solutions to Sustain Farmers, Communities, and Local Ecology

Published on: www.uvm.edu/cals/cdae

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In just a few weeks, CDAE Professor Josh Farley will be on a plane to Brazil to continue his research on the interconnections between agroecology, ecosystem services, economic institutions and human welfare in the Atlantic Forest.

Since 2009, Farley has been working with Brazilian farmers, the Santa Rosa De Lima government, and the Federal University of Santa Catarina to create sustainable solutions for the fragile forest system – 85% of which is now destroyed.

The focus is on the economics of what is essential and Farley argues that although food is the most important thing to produce, it is also the most threatening to the ecosystem. The only way to solve this catastrophic situation is to develop agricultural methods that simultaneously benefit the ecosystem as well as the economic well-being of local farmers, all while feeding the region – home to two-thirds of Brazil’s population; but, developing the agricultural methods is only the first part of the solution.

To effectively implement changes, Farley and his team are collaborating with “state, local, and national government to develop policies that will disseminate the practice across the landscape at the pace necessary to prevent ecological collapse,” he explains. The dissemination of the newly developed agricultural methods, he argues, justify the work they are doing: without widespread adoption, the developed methods would not provide great value to Brazil and its people.

Although agroecological practices are more labor – and knowledge – intensive, they produce higher yields while cutting down on fossil fuels; in other words, the work is well-worth the costs.

“Every region can have its own agroecological system,” adds Farley. This can be as simple as adding leaves or grass from your yard to the soil of your garden to add nutrients, instead of buying toxic fertilizers. Similarly, the practices Farley and his team are developing will help to revitalize and preserve  the ecosystem in the Atlantic Rainforest, while producing native food to feed the region.

“Let’s do the right thing while we have time,” suggests Farley. Through this particular case study, he and his colleagues are hoping to create techniques that can be replicated worldwide.

 

 

Connecting Classrooms with Communities: How CDAE is Creating Real Change Globally and Locally

To be published in the University of Vermont’s Community Development and Applied Economics Newsletter:

“How do we help people make the change they want to see in their community?” poses CDAE Lecturer Thomas DeSisto.

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Photo by: Shea Caligari

He continues, “One of the problems with high schools or universities is the fact that we’re all in different departments and that everything is topically focused.”

DeSisto teaches courses on computer literacy, research methods, and sustainable development, enabling students to create their own solutions to “real world” problems – specifically through service learning.  

CDAE students are encouraged to look at situations from a “broader, more holistic” perspective, and act on it. DeSisto reflects that, as an undergrad, he was always frustrated by how professors presented problem after problem, offering few – if any – solutions.

DeSisto’s flagship service learning partnership with the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Education in St. Lucia  provides students with the opportunity to work with community members in the small island state to create the change they want to see.

Shelley Nhan, a senior Public Communications major, reflects on her time in St. Lucia, “I loved learning about the St. Lucian culture and working with the students at the Rivere Doree school.”

She recommends this course to anyone looking to “make a difference and gain hands-on experience through CDAE.”

DeSisto has been leading the service-learning trip every January since 2005, and finds it rewarding to see students “realize what they can do with what they already know.” DeSisto teaches courses on computer literacy, research methods, and sustainable development, enabling students to create their own solutions to “real world” problems – specifically through service learning.  

CDAE students are encouraged to look at situations from a “broader, more holistic” perspective, and act on it. DeSisto reflects that, as an undergrad, he was always frustrated by how professors presented problem after problem, offering few – if any – solutions.

DeSisto’s flagship service learning partnership with the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Education in St. Lucia  provides students with the opportunity to work with community members in the small island state to create the change they want to see.

Shelley Nhan, a senior Public Communications major, reflects on her time in St. Lucia, “I loved learning about the St. Lucian culture and working with the students at the Rivere Doree school.”

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Photo by: Molly O’Shea

She recommends this course to anyone looking to “make a difference and gain hands-on experience through CDAE.”

DeSisto has been leading the service-learning trip every January since 2005, and finds it rewarding to see students “realize what they can do with what they already know.”

To replicate these efforts in Burlington, DeSisto developed a course called “Local Community Initiatives” in which students work with low-income entrepreneurs in the North End to help improve and expand their businesses. Similarly, Kelly Hamshaw teaches a separate section of the course focused on rural Vermont, specifically the town of Bristol.

Although DeSisto finds the learning, teaching, and community-building opportunities in CDAE rewarding, he considers working with UVM students to be a bittersweet experience: “The best and worst part about teaching at UVM is you meet all these great people and they go off and do all these great things. You are really excited for them, but you miss them.”