Over the course of Summer 2019, MENV will feature various Capstone Projects to keep the community updated on the accomplishments of our students and partner organizations. The Capstone is the centerpiece of the MENV program and is a year-long project that partners students with an organization from the public, private, or non-profit sector. Students gain real-world, professional experience that serves as a springboard for their future careers.
Capstone Project: A New Agrarian Paradigm
Partner Organization: Mad Agriculture
Student Team: Jane Cavagnero, Brian De Corte, Sarah Meade, Garrett Stoll
With a mission to restore society's "relationship with Earth through the story, community, and practice of good agriculture," Mad Agriculture has very ambitious goals. Founded by Phil Taylor – a farmer and sustainable agriculture advocate who is a food systems research associate that teaches in the Masters of the Environment program – the non-profit organization is working with farmers in Colorado and beyond to instill sustainable practices in the industry.
For Mad Agriculture, these sustainable practices mean regenerative agriculture. While many definitions of the practice exist, it is generally agreed that regenerative agriculture is a set of farming methods that provide ecosystem services through increased biodiversity, enhanced soils, and improved watershed quality. According to Terra Genesis International, regenerative agriculture also aims to capture carbon, provide safeguards against the effects of climate change, and increase farmers' yields.
Four MENV students joined the Mad Agriculture team this fall to help the organization meet its Colorado goals. The group of four, which consists of Jane Cavagnero, Brian De Corte, Sarah Meade, and Garrett Stoll, is working with Front Range farmers to encourage and solidify regenerative practices in local agriculture. To promote regenerative methods, the Capstone team is utilizing a systems-thinking approach that relies on already-developed best practices, ecological context, economic constraints, and the region's political landscape.
At the end of the project, Cavagnero, De Corte, Meade, and Stoll will produce a regenerative demonstration farm plan, a bi-annual magazine for radical agriculture writing, a farmers market outreach program, and a carbon economy service package. Additionally, the team will further grow Mad Agriculture’s Community Forums – a monthly event series that facilitates conversations surrounding issues facing the Front Range agriculture community.
Given the rising popularity of regenerative agriculture, the team of four is thrilled to be at the forefront of a shifting economic model. “Our Capstone team is excited to be immersed in regenerative agriculture-focused projects, as the movement is steadily growing and gaining traction around the globe,” said Meade. “Since Mad Agriculture focuses their efforts on many domains of the regenerative agriculture movement, we have broad exposure to varying activities such as farm planning, policy, emerging markets for regenerative products, and new community-based structures.”
To date, the Mad Agriculture Capstone team has immersed itself in Front Range farming through meetings, farm visits, outreach events, and community forums. In doing so, the team has begun to find solutions to the barriers that prevent farmers from adopting regenerative agriculture practices. Additionally, they have also seen what it takes to instill change in Colorado farming communities.
"As Mad Agriculture begins developing its structure, our team of fellows has been right alongside," said Cavagnero of the organization's work. "Working with such a fast-paced startup has given us all insights into what it takes to get a nonprofit off the ground."
As the team works to produce their deliverables over the summer, several exciting events are on the horizon. One such event is Slow Food Nations, an international food festival and gathering of food systems thinkers. Additionally, the team will partake in a "field trip across the Great Plains" to better understand farmer needs for transitioning to regenerative agriculture.