2014 - 2015 Events & Workshops

Patel College Presents at USF Sustainable Food Conference

[Re-posted from http://psgs.usf.edu/news/article/patel-college-presents-at-usf-sustainable-food-conference.]

On January 30th, 2015, the USF Patel College of Global Sustainability (PCGS) hosted and participated in the wildly successful USF Research that Matters: Sustainable Food Conference.


With over 230 people in attendance, the Sustainable Food Conference holds the record for the most popular USF Research that Matters Conference to date. Focused on "People, Policy, and Practice," the conference showcased diverse paper and poster research presentations from USF professors, students, and community stakeholders on topics ranging from sustainable small-scale agriculture to the cultural context of food and beverage consumption and community gardening.

Coordinated by the Community Garden Research Collaborative, an interdisciplinary group comprised of 45 faculty, staff, students, and community members from 18 different departments and organizations, the conference was a great collaborative accomplishment that included sponsorship from 9 USF departments including PCGS, the Center for Urban Transportation Research, Research-One, and the Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships.

Local businesses and organizations such as Sweetwater Farms, Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful, Sustainable Urban Agriculture in St. Petersburg (SUAC), Grace's Hydroponics, Taste of Pine Ave Gardens, and Parks Matter joined in the conference to exhibit their products, services, and volunteer opportunities. Three student organizations – the Student Environmental Association (SEA), Food Activist Revolutionizing Meals (FARM), and Students Protecting the Environment and Animals with Knowledge (SPEAK) – also contributed time, energy, and resources to making the conference a success.

"It is a great honor for the Patel College to host the Sustainable Food Conference," said Dr. Kebreab Ghebremichael, Director of the USF Office of Sustainability in his welcome speech. "We are privileged to serve as the epicenter for discussion on this very important topic."

Lauren Shweder Biel, Executive Director and co-found of DC Greens, a nonprofit that connects communities to healthy food in the nation's capital, delivered the keynote address. Biel serves on the D.C. Mayor's Commission for Healthy Youth in Schools and was named a 2014 Toyota "Mother of Invention" at Tina Brown's Women in the World Summit.

"Throughout history, revolutions have been started by hungry people," said Lauren Biel. "In this country, we have figured out a way to keep people full – but not nourished. This means the revolution is not coming. Instead, it is all of our jobs to start this revolution."

"Today, you all are here because you are ready for change, ready to jumpstart a healthy food revolution," continued Biel. "USF has put up a Batcall with this conference. Who in this community cares about these issues? Who is working on these issues? This is why we are here today – to work together to tackle these issues. This revolution depends on us and it depends on days like this."

PCGS students, faculty, and researchers participated in the conference as both presenters and exhibitors.

PCGS professor Dr. Joseph Dorsey's presentation, entitled "The Importance of Hydroponic Technology in the Urban Agricultural System" explored Urban Agriculture as a growing interdisciplinary field of study and an application of sustainability principles for food security and ecological resilience in cities across the nation and around the world. In the future, climate change may create environmental conditions that cause risks and uncertainty in food supplies and overpopulation may put a strain on resources and degrade ecosystems services. Growing crops in urban areas using Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA), such as hydroponics, would provide fresh and abundant fruits and vegetable all year round, reduce transportation costs and greenhouse gas emissions, and spur community economic development through new business ventures.

Eric Weaver, a PCGS researcher and doctoral candidate, presented a paper presentation on "Urban Agriculture as One Sustainable Solution" that he co-authored in collaboration with PCGS's founding dean Dr. Kala Vairamoorthy, and USF professors Dr. Michael Fountain, Dr. Mahood Nachabe, and Dr. John Jermier. His paper compared Urban Agriculture (UA) with the stormwater Best Management Practices (BMP) at the Florida Aquarium demonstration site. The Florida Aquarium has a stormwater BMP demonstration case study, which was constructed in 1995. This proposed data analysis will give community planners confidence in the BMP technologies to allow greater community support of Urban Agriculture.

PCGS student Adit Patel co-authored a paper presentation on "The Unspoken Truth: Animal Agriculture and Climate Change" with USF alumnus Ryan Kelly. Their paper, which compared the water, land, and energy requirements of animal agriculture in comparison to vegetables and fruit production, concluded that animal agriculture demands significantly more resources.

Another PCGS student, Catalina Zafra presented a paper on "Local and Global Implications of Food Security: An Issue of Sustainability." Her paper proposes food sovereignty as a method to adapt or resist to the changes imposed by hegemonic neoliberal agendas that have not fully managed to contribute to food security and explores ideas that entail collaboration, diversity and self-determination for sustainable livelihoods.

Among the exhibitors, PCGS student Asaf Baruh served as a representative of Sustainable Urban Agriculture in St. Petersburg (SUAC). SUAC is a nonprofit organization with a mission to promote urban agriculture in the city of St. Petersburg and eventually the entire Tampa Bay region.

"I've been volunteering with SUAC for the past 2 years," said Asaf. "Before I started volunteering, I knew nothing. My backyard garden was a failure. Now I grow 5 different types of greens, some radishes, baby banana trees. Little by little, my garden is growing."

The conference ended at 2:30PM with an optional tour of the Temple Terrace Community Gardens.