Common Table Focuses on Farm Sustainability
After two years of collaboration and international discussion, the Common Table Institute at Alma College is moving forward with initiatives for raising awareness on issues related to global agriculture.
The institute formed from the Common Table project, started in 2007 to give a global perspective to rural agriculture issues, especially food sustainability.
A group traveled from Alma to Mexico in the summer of 2007 to meet with Mexican farmers and rural community leaders, including representatives of the indigenous Tarahumara. A 15-member Mexican delegation, including four Tarahumara, then visited Michigan in the summer of 2008.
Common Table participants visit a Michigan farm last summer.
institute focused their ideas into four main categories: economics;
education and communication; biology, health and environment; and
From an economics perspective, the institute aims to partner with rural and indigenous farmers in both countries to provide assistance in marketing goods using economics and business students from Alma, according to Ed Lorenz, director of the public affairs program at Alma College.
The institute also will strive to use the media to educate the public in Mexico and the United States about rural life and food information, specifically to show how the increased cost of organic farming is offset by the benefits of human and environmental health.
Sustainability is a serous issue for rural and indigenous farmers, says Lorenz. Not only can the technologies and practices necessary for achieving sustainability be cost-prohibitive, but heavy use of pesticides, antibiotics and fertilizers can damage the health of people as well as the environment. Another part of the institute’s plan looks to help small farmers find and finance technologies that are efficient and promote sustainable farming.
The institute also aims, through continued discussions and education, to influence agricultural policy by making sure the concerns of small farmers are heard and considered.
Initial funds for the forums in Mexico and Michigan were provided in part by a grant from the W.K.K. Fund of the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation, supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation as part of a trustee mini-grant program designated by Dottie Johnson, the wife of former Alma College Trustee Mart Johnson.
Posted: Tue, November 25th, 2008 at 12:38AM