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NEW! Farm and Food Systems Liberal Arts Option for Fall 2012

Posted on Monday April 2nd 2012

Beginning in fall 2012, Greenfield Community College plans to offer a Farm and Food Systems Liberal Arts option. The 60-61 credit advising option explores the broad field of sustainable farming and local food systems and provides students with an interdisciplinary understanding of ecological, economic, political, and social systems as they relate to food and farming. Through applied courses and internships, students learn hands-on skills such as food cultivation, preservation, processing, techniques for propagation and season-extension, and design of annual and perennial production systems. Students engage in community partnerships and participate in bioregional efforts to support food security, local economies, and planning for resiliency. The new advising option culminates in an Associate of Arts degree in Liberal Arts. Students who graduate with this degree may transfer to a baccalaureate degree institution as a major in Sustainable Food and Farming or other related major or apply gained knowledge to jobs in sustainable farming, agriculture policy, food-related enterprises, or food systems planning.

The new advising option builds on the success of two initial offerings of credit courses – Introduction to Food Systems and Permaculture Design – as well as a series of Re-skilling one-credit/non-credit courses – Beekeeping, Four Season Farming, and Food Preservation and Storage. An additional new credit course, Soil Science, will be offered in fall 2012 and more Re-skilling courses are in the planning stages.

“These classes have drawn students of all ages from all parts of the Pioneer Valley and southern Vermont,” said Abrah Dresdale, Faculty/Coordinator of Farm and Food Systems. “Some are current GCC students considering focusing in this area, some are students who have come specifically to GCC for this Farm and Food Systems option. Other students intend to use their learning in their own gardening and homesteading, some want to be farmers, while others are on a food entrepreneurship track interested in running food-related businesses such as bakeries or value-added products. The diverse group of students reflects what we provide in these courses – an interdisciplinary foundation from which students can approach different fields and hobbies. The “blended” Re-skilling courses include matriculated students studying for credit and also include non-credit seeking community members interested in the subject but not pursuing an academic degree. The recent Four-Season Farming course with Daniel Botkin included an intergenerational mix with about 20-30% of the students over 55 years old.”  Commenting on the origins of the new advising option, Peter Rosnick, GCC Dean of Social and Natural Sciences, Math, Business and Technology, said “GCC responds to community needs and to what people are hungry for in terms of their education. GCC is agile enough to create new opportunities for students to meet their needs. Recognizing the strong community interest in farming and food, Sandy Thomas and Abrah Dresdale did an excellent job sensing the pulse of the community and figuring out the niche GCC can fill to help meet the community’s interests. We seek to cooperate with and complement the work of the many organizations, businesses, and individuals in our community working on sustainable food systems. GCC is very serious in our commitment to sustainability and to educating about sustainable energy and food systems. We demonstrate this commitment with our courses and infrastructure.”

CC President Bob Pura echoes that strong commitment, saying “What a great fit!  This new option addresses the needs of the agricultural community and draws on the academic strengths of GCC. Integrating the skills and knowledge of farming and food within a liberal arts education means students will get an education that is sustainable. Like many programs at GCC, this serves both the short and long-term needs of our students and community.  At GCC, education and sustainability are synonymous.”

Dresdale commented, “As Coordinator and core faculty of the Farm and Food Systems advising option, my mission is to provide affordable access to high quality higher education and to provide hands-on learning opportunities that prepare students with the skills necessary for real-world situations. I challenge students to learn effective communication skills and technical skills in their whole selves so that it becomes second nature to them, not just an abstract academic exercise. As a community college, we provide students with networks in the local community and a service-learning based program that ideally will open up opportunities to students right after graduation.”

In addition to an array of courses, the Farm and Food Systems Initiative sponsors public events to foster community conversations on these topics.  The public is invited to two upcoming events:

  • Wednesday, May 9, Noon to 2 p.m., GCC Dining Commons, Main Campus. Panel presentation by representatives of local food systems cooperatives, each giving a brief presentation about what their business does, followed by question and answer period. Geared to encouraging discussion about how to create a resilient local food economy and to provide information about the new Farm and Food Systems advising option.
  • Tuesday, May 15, 1 to 4 p.m., GCC Multipurpose Room, C208, Main Campus. Final presentations by the Permaculture Design class students on projects related to the Energy Park, Franklin County Technical School, residential backyards, and a prospective permaculture garden at GCC.

To learn more about GCC’s Farm and Food Systems offerings go to or contact Abrah Dresdale at (413) 775-1107 or

by Mary McClintock, ’82

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