Student Writer: Jennifer Yip

Jennifer_Yip_defaultName: Jennifer Yip
Home University: Hunter College
Summer Courses at DIS: Livability in a Modern City, Sustainable Food Systems: Ecology, Economy, and Ethics

An integral part of the learning experience during Session 2 was the week-long study tour and for Sustainable Food Systems we headed off to England. The first week of classes was a lot to take in with the rigorous coursework and the study tour helped to put a little theory in practice. Studying the local small-scale community based farming initiatives in England helped put things into perspective

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Arriving at Totnes was incredible, we sat on a three-hour cross-country train from London to Totnes and it was amazing to see the gradual change from the urban metropolis to small farming towns. We passed by pastures and pastures of cows, sheep and even alpaca and it made me feel a little reconnected with nature. For the week in Totnes, we stayed at gorgeous Downton Abbey-esque estate that seemed rather surreal. It was amazing to breathe in fresh air—the smell of green grass and dewey mornings. Staying in the estate was definitely one of the best parts of the trips.

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Over the course of the week, we did some heavy touring and exploring of Totnes; and looked at small-scale farms that helped build the local economy. We explored Riverford Organic Farms and other small organic and local farms that look to feed healthy, fresh food to the people of Totnes. One of the highlights of my study tour was visiting a local school, where a resident partnered with Riverford Organic Farms to take the produce that didn’t meet the Farm’s standards and use those ingredients to have a weekly cooking session for children and their parents. Totnes has developed a very resource friendly food system that accounts for all forms of waste, a problem that most large-scale industrial food systems don’t account for.

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During our time at Totnes, we went on tractor tours to explore farms and learned about agro-forestry. We looked at many different techniques and variations to small-scale farming that emphasized biodiversity including mushroom growing, CSAs and even had a little session learning how to brew beer. I went canoeing for the first time(!!!) And canoeing in the dark watching the moonlight was one of my favorite moments. Additionally, we went hiking at the Dartmoor National Park where I also hiked for the first time ever. It was definitely a challenge but worth it for the breathless views at high heights.

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The study tour at Totnes was definitely inspiring and it was great to see how simple farming and small-scale techniques can be so easily applied anywhere. It has definitely inspired me to grow my own tomatoes—growing them in my backyard would mean organic if I didn’t use pesticides and zero food miles! Haha. This trip has also inspired me to start growing my own shitake mushrooms, though I think that would be a little harder to tackle. But ultimately, it reaffirmed my views about food origins, food security and food justice—a vision to bring healthy food for all.

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