As Director of Green Mountain College's Sustainable Food Systems premier online graduate program, I believe that global sustainability challenges require more of higher education institutions than graduation rates and that institutions should measure success — not just by what the institution does — but also by the sustainability challenges that they empower their students to address.

I'm here to highlight and congratulate five women (four current students and one alumna) who participated in Green Mountain College's M.S. in Sustainable Food Systems program and who recently had their academic papers accepted at national conferences. 

Let's take a look at how these women in sustainability used their education and their experiences to bring awareness to the issues of accountability and social justice in our food systems.

Explore our resource page — A Guide for Aspiring Female Leaders in  Sustainability

1. Carrie Ellen Carson:

Balancing Funder Centric Priorities with Inclusive Evaluation Goals: Lessons from an Alternative Evaluation Approach

Funder-driven evaluation metrics often shape nonprofit program focus, thus impacting community and economic development trajectories. We pose the question — how can power be balanced or shifted from funder centric priorities to a more inclusive evaluation conversation with nonprofit practitioners addressing community needs through an asset based, sustainable development lens? This question has become important to the development of the Appalachia Accessible Food Network, a collaborative food access project of Rural Action, the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks, and Community Food Initiatives.

The Wealthworks model provides a framework for organizations to engage in holistic program evaluation. It recognizes wealth as eight forms of capital, addresses regional ownership and control, and supports lasting livelihoods, particularly for low-income individuals. Carson's presentation articulates how the Wealthworks approach provides an alternative evaluation framework that showcases the full impact of the network that transcends job creation and traditional economic investments, catalyzing holistic community development.

2. MaryAnn Martinez: 

Self-Organized Economic Governance in Values-Based Food Economies: The Case for Alternatives to the Market Driven System

Martinez explores the externalities that values-based food producers face operating in a market driven economy. She considers how scholars and activists can “be there for” local and regional producers, while simultaneously working together to develop food economies of equity and justice. 

The key message for this session is that in the absence of corporate accountability and/or support on the federal policy level, local and regional self-organized governance is critical to the evolving and scaling across of a moral economy in place-based food systems. 

3. Laura Valentine: 

The Basic Food Systems Report Toolkit

The Basic Food Systems Report Toolkit is a set of free tools, including proposed measures, identified data sources, and resources for food policy councils, community groups, and individual practitioners to create fast, accurate food systems reports with minimal resource outlay.

The toolkit comes out of work done in conjunction with the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council and is based on research across a cohort of food system baseline reports from cities in the United States. 

4. Elizabeth Makarewicz: 

"Respect Our Mother:" Dakota Perspectives on Food Sovereignty for a More Sustainable Food System

Though vastly overlooked by government officials and others in power, Dakota notions of food sovereignty offer a vision of a more resilient and sustainable food system.

This paper will briefly examine the origins of movements for food sovereignty, uncover the movements' legacies and current practices in the author's own bioregion, explore complementary and oppositional opinions, and offer recommendations for future success. In addition to exploring native-led solutions, this paper will include a short self-reflection that examines the role of white allies within this movement.

5. Diana Hembree:

Breaking Out of the Golden Cage: The Promise of Food Justice for California Farmworkers

Food justice is a powerful social movement that acknowledges the food system’s legacy of exploitation of farmworkers, especially people of color, and promotes fair treatment for workers and other actors in the food system.

Since the National Organic Program has no regulations protecting farmers and farmworkers, the Agricultural Justice Project created a food label in 2011 called Food Justice Certified (FJC) as an alternative. The label lets consumers know the food comes from a farm that offers farmworkers fair wages and benefits and fair pricing for farmers. Twenty organic farms have begun working toward certification and another three are Food Justice Certified. Of these three, two of the organic farms are in the San Francisco Bay Bioregion: Swanton Berry Ranch and Pie Ranch.

This paper examines Swanton Berry Farm and the benefits and challenges of the Food Justice Certified movement. Swanton Berry Farm – the first commercial strawberry operation to go organic - has been able to provide housing for farmworkers and pay them good wages, health insurance, paid time off, parental leave, and a pension; the paper concludes this is in part due to its success in direct retail sales and direct-to-consumer sales, in which consumers are willing to pay a premium for fair labor. It concludes that Swanton Berry Farm and the FJC program are invaluable models for organic farms, but that the certification program should consider expanding its reach through a stronger media presence and by networking with groups like the Food Chain Workers Alliance.

Note: For a closer look at Diana's story, check out her recent blog article, Confront Gender Bias: Thoughts from a Female Leader in Sustainability.

Here at Green Mountain College, we believe the world needs more leaders in sustainability.

We're dedicated to preparing women to tackle the great issues we face today — from climate change to social justice to food systems — through a lens of authentic sustainability. Pursuing an advanced education in sustainability is one way to establish yourself as one of the many passionate and capable women in sustainability.

To learn more about Green Mountain College, we invite you to request more information today!

Explore our digital page — A Guide for Aspiring Female Leaders in Sustainability — for stories and advice regarding female thought leadership in sustainability.

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