Agroecology course draws professionals from around the globe

Farmers and professionals from India, South Africa, Mexico, Japan, and elsewhere converged on UCSC for the eighth annual International Agroecology Short Course this summer.

Forty participants attended the two-week institute that focused on agricultural sustainability, led by Stephen Gliessman, the Alfred E. Heller Professor of Agroecology in the Environmental Studies Department.

Participants, including many of Gliessman's former graduate students, discussed the research they're pursuing as professors at the University of Chapingo in Mexico; the University of Yucatan, Merida in Mexico; the University of Quintana Roo in Mexico; the University of Vermont; and elsewhere.

The group was captivated by presentations on projects as diverse as shade-tree coffee plantations, the intercropping of olives, grapes, and wheat in Spain, and farms in Mexico where corn grows three meters in two months. Participants from the United States discussed a variety of projects, including an immigrant farm project in Maine where Somalis and Iraqis grow food to sell at local farmers markets. In addition, UCSC entomologist Sean Swezey of the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, discussed his partnerships with local farmers to develop ways to grow strawberries organically.

Agroecology promotes farming methods that are sensitive to features such as the soil, climate, flora, and fauna. Sustainable practices include managing pests and diseases rather than trying to eradicate them, and adapting crops to local environments. As part of the course, participants visited High Ground Organics farm in Watsonville, the Santa Cruz Farmers Market, and the Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association in Salinas.

Next summer, the course will take place in El Salvador.