Students and Faculty Push for Food Minor

By Isabelle Dietz

This year the College will reconsider a proposal for a Food and Agricultural Studies minor that was first discussed in the fall of 2011.

The proposal for the minor was submitted to the Educational Affairs Committee by a sub-group of the Environmental Council consisting of Pier LaFarge ’11, David Clark-Barol ’12, Amanda Warren ’12, Ben Blackshear ’12, Manager of Bread Loaf Campus and Waste Management Missy Beckwith and Professor of Biology Helen Young.

The initial proposal discussed a number of key administrative details, including the required courses for the minor, and the possibility of a required internship/study project. The document also provided information about the hiring of a faculty member for the minor and gave suggestions of food studies courses at other colleges that courses at Middlebury could be modeled upon.

“The proposal was in response to tremendous student interest in food, food justice and food production … along with the realization that faculty here were already teaching relevant courses,” said Young. “We put the two together to write the proposal.”

Last year the proposal was not taken up by the Educational Affairs Committee due to concerns about additional staffing needs, as well as a desire to develop a more comprehensive approach to deal with the increasingly large number of minor offerings and an increased interest in on-the-job learning at the College.

The committee will discuss these issues this fall and Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs and Professor of Religion James Calvin anticipates taking up the Food and Agricultural Studies proposal as part of the discussion.

“In general I can say that there is quite a bit of enthusiasm for food studies in the administration, as well as among many faculty and students,” said Calvin.

“But there are also institutional issues that complicate a minor proposal like this, given that it commits us to staffing an academic program for years down the road, so the Educational Affairs Committee is trying to sort through [this decision] responsibly.”

Anticipation for the Committee’s review of the proposal is high, as many students are already involved with and interested in working with and studying their food.

“I really like food,” said Katie Michels ’15.5, a student director of the Middlebury College Organic Farm who is majoring in environmental studies and geography. “It’s helpful, it’s valuable to talk about in a critical way and everyone eats it.

“There’s a lot of activity in the food world right now, and for Middlebury to be a part of that would be super,” she added. She said that she would definitely minor in food studies if it were offered.