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Workforce Grant to Support Sustainable Food System Goals

COM and Industry Partners to Create Model Environmental Program

NOVATO, Calif.—Aug. 10, 2009—College of Marin received a clear green light to move ahead with its farm-based Sustainable Food Systems program thanks to a new two-year Chancellor’s grant of $374,254.

“This is a welcome ray of light in an otherwise gloomy and dark economic climate,” said COM Superintendent/President Frances L. White, Ph.D. “These funds couldn’t have arrived at a better time and will ensure that our organic garden educational program continues to thrive.”

The project, spearheaded by the college in collaboration with the Conservation Corps North Bay and UC Cooperative Extension, is designed to provide the education and training resources for a skilled, entrepreneurial workforce in the emerging fields of organic agriculture and sustainable local food systems.

“The support from the industry, from the business and community leaders is overwhelming,” said Nanda Schorske, dean of Workforce Development, College and Community Partnerships at College of Marin. “We knew we had the support but when it came time to get letters of commitment it was about triple what was expected in matching funds. It ensures the success of the Bay Area Alliance for Sustainable Food Systems Education, Workforce and Economic Development project for the next two years and beyond.”

The project is a venture that includes funds and financial commitments from more than 26 industry partners. It is the first industry-driven workforce development program of its kind within the California Community College system and will be a model for other colleges and communities throughout the state. Ohlone and Mission community colleges are also involved with the project.

The funds provide crucial management needed for a venture of this kind, Schorske said. In addition to hiring a farm manager for a new two-acre organic farm, buying farm equipment and adding an irrigation system, college faculty will meet this summer with partners to develop new curriculum for the fall.

“The backbone of this project is it’s a teaching farm,” Schorske said.

California and especially the San Francisco Bay Area is home to a fast-growing, widely supported movement to establish sustainable local food systems that provide healthful food for all, strengthen local economies, support small-scale farms, and encourage sustainable food and agricultural entrepreneurship and green job creation.

Conservation Corps students will get the farm up and running and will be in charge of day to day operations. “This is an excellent program that provides both field and classroom educational components,” said Marilee Eckert, executive director of the Conservation Corps.

Initial classes have already surpassed capacity. Four sustainable farm-related classes will be taught in the fall: Principles and Practices of Organic Farm and Gardening, Integrated Pest Management, Environmental Landscape Design and Intro to Sustainable Horticulture. Classes start week of August 17.

The alliance will address specific goals including the development of:

  • An advisory group of industry professionals to develop curricula and training programs;
  • A business and marketing plan;
  • A food system core curriculum and certificate program consistent with industry and regional partners skill standards and aimed at filling workforce gaps;
  • Credit and non-credit courses and industry-specific contract classes;
  • The Indian Valley Organic Farm & Garden which will serve as the region’s first Sustainable Local Food Systems education and training hub;
  • Training and professional development opportunities for community college faculty and staff.

This two-year initiative is funded by a Chancellor’s Office grant of $374,254 and matching resources by partners of $1,114,210.

 

 

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