I have an estimated 8 years of cumulative practice in experiential and project-based undergraduate and popular education. I bring my unique perspective from agroecology, a transdisciplinary, action-oriented, and participatory approach to the study of sustainable food systems. I also use creative pedagogical approaches including participatory syllabus design, group assignments, guest lectures, field trips, etc.
My teaching focuses on food systems. For food systems to truly be sustainable and socially just, we need to prepare students with the knowledge and means to follow career paths in the non-profit, private, and public sectors. I hope for students to become aware of the opportunities and challenges to making changes in existing food systems. I also wish to motivate them to continue pursuing food systems-related work once they graduate.
My contributions to undergraduate education at UC Berkeley were recently recognized by an American Cultures Engaged Scholarship award and by a Lecturer Teaching Fellowship. The sections below describe my experience with undergraduate education, as well as my involvement with two projects of popular education.
Experiential and Project-based Education
At UC Berkeley, I have facilitated engaged, experiential, and project-based learning for 5 semesters and 2 summer terms through Urban Agriculture and Food Justice (ESPM 117). It is multidisciplinary in the sense of spanning the natural and social sciences through its focus on urban farms and gardens. It is comparative in that students learn about the urban agriculture case studies globally through the assigned reading while at the same time collaborating with urban agriculture projects in the East Bay. Urban Agriculture and Food Justice is also integrative by drawing on multiple learning modalities, and by emphasizing teamwork skills that are essential to social organizing.
Also at UC Berkeley, I teach the Food Systems minor capstone course, Experiential Learning Through Engagement in Food Systems. The course offers undergraduates the opportunity to design projects related to food systems with community partners. By participating in reflection, action, and engaged scholarship, students in the capstone course gain insight into the problems with our current food system, the challenges faced by those who attempt to change it, and the opportunities to overcome these challenges. Students publish their project reflections as blog posts.
In addition to my Lecturer appointment, I support student-led research and scholarship in other ways. As an example, this past year I advised a student for her Honors thesis that discussed Market Match, California’s healthy food incentive program. Her thesis was based on interviews with recipients and farmers market managers. Such students have shown a strong capacity for theoretically rigorous food systems scholarship with bearing on the real world.
Popular and Online Education
In partnership with my colleagues at the Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA), I facilitate a 3-month intensive called the Bay Area Farmer Training (BAFT).
BAFT supports immigrants, refugees, formerly incarcerated, and under-resourced beginning farmers in having strong voices to lead their communities towards thriving, equitable and resilient food systems. We offer a comprehensive program featuring experiential learning, site visits, participatory presentations, anti-oppression trainings, online curriculum, and ongoing mentorship support for those who aspire to farm as a career path. Students visit Planting Justice’s organic tree nursery in East Oakland, as well as various local and successful ecological farms in MESA’s network.
BAFT’s online learning platform was my first serious entry into online course development. The learning platform focuses on regenerative agriculture and food systems, social movements and food justice, models of agroecological production, and business development and management. It complements the diverse topics BAFT students discuss during in-person workshops on topics such as aquaponics, nursery production, sustainable livestock care, business planning, marketing, product distribution, access to land and capital, and the socio-political forces that shape the ways that each of us relates with food, and more.
I also coordinate long-term support for those who graduate from the three-month training period. BAFT graduates are mentored by local farmers and participate in 3-6 months of paid apprenticeships on farms in the MESA network. Some graduates have received living-wage employment with Planting Justice on their landscape design team or at their tree nursery.
As a faculty-owner at the Cooperative New School for Urban Studies and Environmental Justice (the CNS), I am part of a nascent effort to build a networked learning community across multiple cities in the United States. I teach live webinars and courses on such topics as urban agriculture, agroecology, and food justice.
The CNS is a worker-owned cooperative founded in 2017 with roots in progressive Southern movements with a long tradition of self-defense, solidarity, and radical love. We at the CNS intend to contribute similarly in this tradition. We bring environmental justice, social justice, and organizing strategies to the people, to make knowledge accessible to everyone. In community, we seek to change the hearts and minds of everyday people to realize their agency.