Importance of Natural Resources

College of Liberal Arts, Environment & Sustainability

[Music and Natural Sound] The UMD Land Lab is a field-based site about
four miles north of the UMD campus where we have about 30 acres of organically managed
landscape including about nine acres of organically managed agricultural land. We use this landscape scaled classroom in
three different ways. We partner with organizations across the university
growing maybe 20 to 25 tons of organic produce for their dining services where students essentially
eat their homework and learn about sustainable agriculture and food systems and the challenge
of changing our institutions to be able to lower their ecological footprint. Being able to bridge the gap from producer
to consumer seeing the produce that I pick and harvest eaten by students that I have
relationships with. I’ve always kind of liked science and I’m
actually a non-traditional student so I have a family and one of my sons has food allergies. And so it really kind of got me looking at
what’s in our food and how it’s grown and how that affects our health. A lot school environments are somewhat sterile. I mean you’re sitting in a classroom and a
teacher is kind of just talking at you in a sense. And to have a place to actually go that can
connect what you’re learning in the classroom to something that’s actually like a live and
functioning entity like the farm here, it’s invaluable I think. It leads you to ask a lot more questions because
there’s a lot more things going on and it allows you to make a lot more connections. [Music and Natural Sound] We’re also at the Land Lab a community food
systems incubator where we invite community organizations in for projects on site with
the community garden program, the Duluth public school system, the intertribal agriculture
council, and a number of other organizations that are interested in the transition to a
more sustainable food and agricultural system. [Music and Natural Sound] Finally, we’re a research station of sorts
where we’re trying to spark research around sustainable agriculture and really the nexus
between food, water, and energy. The work that we do at the university is around
empowering and educating young people who will both inherit the future and build it. It’s clear that all of our human infrastructures
will want to lower their ecological footprint. But doing so is also an amazing opportunity
for economic development and local employment and healthier communities. And introducing students who may or may not
become farmers or even work in the food system specifically is really important because consumer
knowledge and demand is what drives this transition. And educating a more knowledgable food citizen
is really key to the sustainable transition that we’re beginning. And so we want to expose all UMD students
to this farm and help them understand the tradeoffs that sustainable agriculture presents
relative to other forms of agriculture and have them join us in transforming our university’s
food system and really learning to both walk and talk sustainability so that wherever they
go in this world they expect their communities, their institutions, and their households to
become more sustainable because that’s key in this 21st century.

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