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Placing Local Food Systems: Farm Tours as Place-Based Sustainability Education

By Laura Johnson, Gary Schnakenberg and Nicholas Perdue

Place can be understood as space endowed with meaning, evoking notions of difference, connection, attachment, and emotion. As processes of modernity and globalization have increasingly homogenized cultural and natural landscapes, place is said to be ‘thinning’ or lost, linked to widening rifts between social and natural worlds. Such homogenization globally has sparked concerns, as people perceive landscape loss and increasing socio-ecological injustices. One such system of homogenization and unsustainability is industrial agriculture, a system that has shifted smaller scale, place-based, and diverse food systems to a global, mechanized one, distancing production from consumption, disrupting communities, and obscuring awareness, understanding, and care.

Yet, as consumer awareness increases and people desire to know where their food comes from and who produced it, inclusive place-based food systems can provide reconnections amongst producers, consumers, community, and the more-than-human world. In this paper, stemming from research in western North Carolina, we bring together literature from scholars of place, agro-food studies, education, and tourism to investigate the role of place in local food systems as well as the potential of small-scale sustainable agricultural places to serve as important educational spaces via community-based farm tourism. To better understand such potential, we draw on a study of the Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture High Country Farm Tour, an annual tour of small-scale sustainable working farms in the North Carolina High Country. Delving into participating producers’ philosophies, practices, and stories reveals passionate sustainable producers firmly rooted in place, while exploring consumer motivations for and impacts of participation makes a strong case for community-based farm tourism and other environmental tourism projects as an avenue for place-based education, community socio-ecological resilience, and sustainability across scales.

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Book Review: The Forest Garden Greenhouse by Jerome Osentowski

By Tracey Urbick

Abstract: Book review of The Forest Garden Greenhouse by Jerome Osentowski.

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Beekeeping as Experiential: The Ashland Apiary Project

By Ryan King

The Ashland Apiary Project is a multi-pronged, multi-aged learning design that uses beekeeping as a thematic avenue for hands-on experiential learning and the cultivation of land stewardship. The project is a student-led, collaborative effort by Southern Oregon University to establish an on-campus apiary that serves as a model of place-based and community-based education for a wide audience of students in an elementary, secondary, and collegiate setting. Through the Ashland Apiary Project, the pedagogic approach of “apiary-based learning” is considered in the field of sustainability education.

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Effecting Change through Storytelling

By Patricia E. Grace and Eric K. Kaufman

There is evidence that the American agrifood system is a significant contributor to environmental, economic, social, and ethical-animal welfare damage to the earth and to society and is unsustainable, yet the worldview of a substantial percentage of the population conflicts with this assessment. A significant number of researchers, non-governmental organizations, and government entities assert that the detrimental effects of industrial agriculture must be addressed without delay and sustainable agricultural practices implemented. Attempting to change a worldview is not an easy task. A growing body of research in other disciplinary areas suggests that storytelling can serve as an effective method of fostering change. This mixed-methods study examines the role of storytelling in effecting positive change in worldview and attitudes toward sustainable agriculture. The study explores the effects of Story-based versus Information-based treatments on such change. The hypothesis of the study is that Story-based treatments will be more effective in promoting positive change than will Information-based treatments. The findings of the study provide evidence supporting this hypothesis. The story characteristics found to be associated with positive change included: first-hand personal view, vivid description, and identification with the story narrator.

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