By: Emily Linginfelter ~Staff Writer~
With only six students, Xavier’s Land, Farming and Community (LAND) major is one of the university’s smallest degree programs.
The LAND major focuses on the food system primarily in relation to agroecology, the tie between agriculture and ecology. Since the inception of the sustainability academic department in 2013, LAND has not grown at the rate of the department’s other newly-minted majors, especially the two business-focused majors. However, it offers the most experiential and interdisciplinary learning model of the program’s four undergraduate degrees.
LAND Director Kathleen Smythe, Ph.D., said the committee knew this degree would have a modest start since the job opportunities in agriculture- related fields are currently scarce and competitive given the economics of the U.S. food system, although they are projected to grow.
For this reason, the candidates of the LAND program are required to actively spend seven out of eight semesters in the field learning from sustainability and agricultural experts like farmers, entrepreneurs and community gardeners.
“Excessive field (involvement) provides students with a wide range of contacts and experiences,” Smythe said, “so that when they graduate they have a network of people who can help them identify work opportunities that will help guide them toward the aspect of food production, distribution or processing they are most interested in.”
Students in the past have helped at Gabriel’s Place, an organization that provides healthy food to residents in Cincinnati’s North Avondale neighborhood, and assisted Erin and Robert Lockridge, owners of local pay-as-you-can pizza parlor Moriah Pie, in educating children in Norwood about food production and making food for the restaurant.
“We were able to connect with a lot of different people. (Agricology) doesn’t just stop at
Xavier’s campus. It relates to this region and other regions that are trying to do similar things,” said Andrew Hermann, a junior LAND and Philosophy, Politics and the Public double major.
“A lot of people don’t realize that urban agriculture is taking off in Cincinnati. Just being here in the last three years, I have seen a huge spark in the interest and quantity of urban farms,” Hermann said.
Hermann was was the first Xavier student to declare a LAND major in 2014 and anticipates becoming one of the first two LAND graduates in the 2016-2017 academic year. He is currently building a start-up coffee production and trade business called Better World Beans (www.betterworldbeans. com) and plans to continue the operations after completing his degree.
To learn more about the Xavier Sustainability opportunities, explore the official website at http://www.xavier. edu/green/index.cfm.