In about 11 days, my eldest daughter is heading off for her first year at Kenyon College, in Gambier, Ohio. Remembering those heady days of perusing a course catalog and trying to decide what classes to register for, I was ... well, perusing her course catalog and deciding what I would take if I could go back to college now. I discovered to my joy that Kenyon offers a special cross-disciplinary, multi-course initiative that explores food, farming and rural life. It's called Food for Thought. Here are some outtakes from the catalog:
Understanding our food sources raises many questions of national and global significance. How will rising petroleum costs affect the availability and cost of food? What is the impact of current farming practices on the environment? How do the cultural meanings we associate with food influence eating habits? Does the loss of small landholding farmers diminish the foundation of a democratic society? ...Courses in the program include practical issues in ethics, sustainable agriculture, solar energy, photography, American culture and the environment, anthropology of food, and introduction to environmental studies.
Much of the work accomplished in these courses will contribute to an ambitious public project to build a sustainable market for foods produced in and around Knox County. Students and faculty are conducting research on local food supplies and consumer buying habits, developing a local food warehouse and retail outlet in Mount Vernon, and creating exhibits to raise public understanding about the many ways our food choices affect us as individuals and as a society...
By taking three courses, completing a summer internship on a farm that uses ecological production methods, and attending workshops and conferences, students may receive The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA)-Kenyon Certificate in Ecological Agriculture. This program:
... gives students the opportunity to develop intellectual skills and practical knowledge regarding food and farming systems. Students will (1) develop an understanding of the complex nature of agroecosystems, (2) critically analyze the social, political, and economic institutions in which food and farming systems are embedded, and (3) explore the interplay of social values, personal responsibility, and the achievement of environmental and community goals.For additional information about Food for Thought, visit the Kenyon Rural Life Center Web site.
If I could go back to college with my current life experience and passions, this -- at least in part -- is what I would be doing. There's no doubt in my mind about that.