This 12 months, UC Santa Cruz celebrates 55 years of nationwide management in natural and sustainable agriculture, and the campus hub for these efforts, the Agroecology Middle, is getting ready to additional broaden its affect. The middle not too long ago chosen Government Director Darryl Wong to supply managerial and strategic management in help of the middle’s mission to advance agroecology and construct an equitable future for meals techniques. Her work will complement School Director Stacy Philpott’s ongoing supervision of the middle’s tutorial and analysis features.
Wong has been a analysis land supervisor on the Middle for Agroecology since 2013, which has allowed him to work on the middle’s analysis, schooling and meals manufacturing applications. He’s a scholar on the heart studying program and is finishing a Ph.D. in Environmental Research at UC Santa Cruz, with a give attention to soil well being and no-till natural agriculture. He owned a diversified natural farm earlier than becoming a member of the Middle for Agroecology and has over 15 years of farming expertise.
As Wong assumes his new function, the Middle for Agroecology is poised to assist form the way forward for international meals techniques, amid new challenges and alternatives arising from fast social, environmental, and technological change. The middle may even proceed to construct on its historical past as maybe the oldest college natural farm within the nation. And the workforce stays dedicated to primary companies, together with meals entry for college students and the neighborhood, experiential schooling via UCSC specialization in agroecology and studying program, farmer extension companies, and cutting-edge analysis on sustainable agriculture.
The UC Santa Cruz information workforce caught up with Wong to be taught extra concerning the heart’s objectives for the long run and the attitude he’ll deliver as govt director. Under are highlights from that interview.
UCSC: Congratulations in your new place, Darryl. How do you are feeling about assuming the place of govt director on the Middle for Agroecology?
Wong: I’m very excited! I generally joke that I’ve skilled the middle from virtually each attainable angle, and one of many issues that I discover so thrilling is with the ability to share the affect of the UC Santa Cruz Agroecology Middle and Farm with others. and Alan Chadwick Backyard could be, as somebody who has had a extremely deep and stable expertise with it. I stay up for the problem of eager about how all the heart’s applications and sources can match collectively to maximise our affect on meals techniques.
UCSC: As the middle’s former analysis land supervisor, how do you see the legacy of natural agriculture on campus mirrored within the kinds of analysis being performed right here as we speak?
Wong: The Agroecology Middle is actually distinctive in that we now have an extended historical past of meals manufacturing that has overlapped with analysis. The truth that we preserve a functioning natural farm and backyard proper right here on campus permits for a subsequent degree of inquiry that mixes facets of technical, pure, and biophysical sciences to know these lands as complete techniques. That is totally different from the method you will see in agricultural science, which regularly focuses on constituent elements. Our analysis lands are extra like a petri dish that permits folks to check relationships at work in farming techniques. And that features the relationships between folks and the land. The middle’s work combines extremely technical agricultural analysis with a broader give attention to the social points that go hand in hand with it.
UCSC: Might you discuss a bit extra concerning the social facets of agroecology and the way this informs the work of the middle?
Wong: Properly, when folks discuss sustainable agriculture, they normally consider natural manufacturing strategies or methods like no-till farming or cowl crops or nitrogen biking. And there may be actually a lot to be taught and uncover about sustainable manufacturing strategies. But additionally, with a few of these issues, we’re now previous the purpose of needing to show that they work: we all know they’ll. Now we have to determine which levers to lean on to drive social change in reworking meals techniques in the direction of extra sustainable types of manufacturing and distribution and extra equitable entry and labor practices. As a result of, in the end, there are social issues in agriculture that dictate the biophysical realities on the bottom.
For instance, producers are sometimes restricted in what they’ll do by social choices about how we worth meals and land. That is mirrored in how a lot customers are prepared to pay, what laws exist round issues like pesticides, how the market rewards consolidation, and the way commodity helps for standard produce drive down the costs of all meals. As a farmer, I used to be confronted with a few of these harsh political and financial realities. And that’s a part of what attracted me to the Middle for Agroecology. UC Santa Cruz has lengthy been a pacesetter within the interdisciplinary examine of meals techniques, and the middle’s work combines cutting-edge natural farming practices with insights into the social forces in agriculture in a really distinctive and highly effective manner.
UCSC: And the way does the middle’s academic mission contribute to altering meals techniques?
Wong: In case you look again in historical past, within the early days, the farm right here at UC Santa Cruz was one of many few video games that introduced collectively individuals who have been conscious of the rules of natural farming and agroecology. And a part of the function that our campus performed was to supply hands-on coaching and curriculum, however there was additionally a community-building side that has been actually essential. The individuals who got here to check agroecology at UC Santa Cruz have been early adopters who made connections with one another that they stored with one another as they superior of their careers. And as we speak, while you take a look at the graduates of our apprenticeship program throughout the nation, our alumni and our first school members, you’ll be able to actually see how there’s a community of help that helps develop this motion that leads on to UC Santa Cruz. .
Going ahead, I believe our objective is actually to empower the subsequent era of scientists and activists who can converse throughout the meals system with broad societal understanding and real-world expertise. I do not count on everybody who goes via the agroecology diploma or apprenticeship program to need to begin a farm and drive a tractor. They might find yourself being somebody who’s doing state coverage work in Sacramento, who is worked up about accessibility in agriculture, and is aware of how a lot work it takes to select a strawberry. When somebody talks to you concerning the issues going through strawberry employees within the discipline, you’ll have experiential data at your fingertips and in your again of how exhausting that job is and what persons are being requested to do to provide that crop.
UCSC: What different important points will the middle tackle to advance its mission into the long run?
Wong: We’re pondering lots about who can entry the middle and the academic alternatives right here and the way we are able to present the proper codecs and help to attach this useful resource that has had such an affect on the meals system with historically underserved populations that have not had entry to it. earlier than. That is particularly essential at a time when so many new instruments in agriculture are rising via the event of AgTech. Whenever you give somebody a instrument, what they do with it will rely lots on what perspective it is coming from, so we actually have to put new applied sciences within the fingers of individuals like farmworkers and their households, who’ve deep expertise lived with agriculture, to see the place they are going to take it.
I believe there may be potential for UC Santa Cruz to play a task in making these connections occur. We have to perceive the implications of rising applied sciences and entry to expertise and who sits on the desk when it is being developed. Somebody wants to verify these questions are requested. And I believe as a campus, we’re uniquely well-positioned to assist try this, given the strengths of our engineering and social science applications. I believe there’s a actual alternative to make sure that rising agricultural expertise doesn’t crush folks, as has generally occurred previously, and that AgTech could be an instance of expertise for social good. I’m excited to see what function the Middle for Agroecology can play in that course of.