The Boeing Company and the College of Charleston have teamed up to provide scholarships to veterans and military family members interested in pursuing a career in the field of sustainable food systems.
The Sustainable Food Systems Certificate program, which launched at the College for the fall 2019 semester, will provide students with the knowledge and practical skills needed to establish and maintain a small business in farming or food processing. Boeing has provided funding for scholarships for this program specifically for veterans and military family members with the goal of helping transition veterans into the civilian workforce. The certificate program, which is open to both veteran and nonveteran students, is housed within the broader Sustainable Food Systems Program in the College’s School of Professional Studies.
What is a sustainable food system? Public health professor Olivia M. Thompson, who serves as the program’s principal investigator and co-director, explains that a sustainable food system is one wherein the entire range of value-added activities — from food production to disposal — are considered in the context of economic, social and environmental benefits or gains.
“The fall 2019 launch of the program is timely given the College of Charleston’s increasing emphasis on sustainability literacy as a bridge to addressing 21st century problems such as climate change, social injustice and economic inequality,” says Thompson.
There are two tracks to the program: sustainable farming and food processing. Both continuing education and degree-seeking students in the farming track will receive a semester-long field experience in sustainable farming practices, where they will learn what is required to own and operate a small farm. Students in the food processing track will receive a semester-long field experience in food processing, where they will learn how to add value to produce and get products to the market.
What makes this program a good fit for veterans? Mat Garrison, veteran/military/ROTC research and liaison director at CofC, says that many of those leaving the military don’t want to work in office jobs, so being out in the field allows them to work with their hands, which could also be therapeutic for former soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder. The 14-week certificate program also allows veterans to train in agriculture, business and marketing in less time than a traditional degree.
All students will complete a comprehensive business planning course as well as a boot camp in digital marketing. Continuing education students will be able to complete the program in one semester. Degree-seeking students will complete three additional courses online through AG IDEA, a consortium of major universities housing faculty who specialize in agriculture and food systems-related fields. Required AG IDEA courses include Introduction to Food Systems and Global Horticulture, Agricultural or Environmental Law, and Agricultural Policy.
AG IDEA courses are offered throughout the year. Business planning and digital marketing courses will be held in-person at the College of Charleston’s School of Professional Studies in North Charleston. Field experience courses will be held at either The Growing Minds Educational Farm in Mount Pleasant or The Crop Stop Farm Kitchen at Sweet Grass Gardens on Johns Island.
To learn more about the program, apply for a scholarship and enroll go to sps.cofc.edu. The deadline to enroll for the spring semester is Dec. 16, 2019. The spring start date is Jan. 8, 2020.