Mary Helen is an award-winning teacher in the Livonia (Michigan) Public Schools. She and two colleagues are planning a trip to the House of Hope Orphanage in Montrois, Haiti. They will bring and distribute school supplies, clothes, and shoes to the children there. The three also will guide enrichment camps focusing on sports, art, and dance. Their work expands a program that previously resulted in the provision of four goats for the village, used to supply milk and cheese to the community.
Samantha recently served as an AmeriCorps New Jersey watershed ambassador working in the Assicunk, Crosswicks and Doctors Creek watersheds. “I hosted a volunteer monitoring training at the Tulpehaking Nature Center, with eight volunteers,” she is quoted as saying. “We spend many hours together. It had gone so well that I was on cloud nine at the end of the training. I’m so grateful for the time I have spent in New Jersey.” Samantha’s comments were part of the state’s Department of Environmental Protection’s effort to recruit Americorps watershed ambassadors for 2016. Samantha majored in biology at Kalamazoo College and studied abroad in Beijing, China.
Kate is a conservation biologist at the Minnesota Zoo. Her mission is to reduce threats to wildlife by using science to solve conservation problems. “I seek to see a planet full of life and awe-inspiring wild places.” She assists the Tiger Species Survival Plan and Tiger Conservation Campaign, and she organizes the zoo’s Recycle for Rainforests Program. She continues her research on dholes in Thailand and is collaborating with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Mongolia on a project related to reintroduced Przewalski’s horses. Her former biology professor, Paul Sotherland, is a big fan. “CONGRATULATIONS,” he wrote to Kate, “on doing such cool stuff!”
Ron and his wife Suzanne live at and manage the first farm in Michigan to be designated Certified Wildlife Friendly by the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network. The 46-acre Windshadow Farm (Bangor, Michigan) ensures the health of its 150-head dairy goat herd in concert with surrounding wetlands and habitat for species that include amphibians, reptiles, ground-nesting birds and raptors. Ron and Suzanne time the grazing of the pasture-fed goats to ensure nutrient-dense forage. The milk produced allows for production of high-quality cheeses, distributed in western Michigan and in Chicago under the Evergreen Lane Artisan Cheese label. The natural areas surrounding Windshadow Farm allow for migration of coyotes and fishers through a marsh extending from the Black River. Two Great Pyrenees livestock guardian dogs are with the dairy herd at all times, and vulnerable animals are gathered in a secured dry lot at night. The couple enjoy identifying the multiple species of turtles, frogs, toads and snakes found on the property and regularly see egrets, herons and sandhill cranes, along with a host of raptors. Instead of draining seasonally wet areas, the farm has developed a management-intensive grazing system around them. The farm maintains a grassed perimeter around pastures and times hay crop gathering and grazing to protect ground-nesting birds and capture rain water. Ron and Suzanne believe they are seeing an increase in native pollinators due to careful management. The return of pollinators, along with more amphibians and reptiles, are signs of a healthy ecosystem. The farm uses solar power for some of its operations, and it also is certified for its high-welfare animal care by the Animal Welfare Approved program. Ron and Suzanne have served on the board of directors of the Michigan Land Trustees, an organization that promotes local food, small farms and rural revitalization.
Tyson was recently a guest on the Joy Cardin Show on Wisconsin Public Radio to discuss the nuclear power plant moratorium in Wisconsin. Under a new proposal, Wisconsin’s 32-year-old moratorium on new nuclear power plants would be lifted. Supporters say nuclear power is cleaner and that new plants would create jobs, while opponents say it distracts from renewable energy efforts and that there’s no long-term solution to storing nuclear waste. Cardin’s guests discussed whether Wisconsin should end its moratorium on new nuclear power plants.
Tyson manages the science department of Clean Wisconsin. In this role he serves as the scientific and technical lead for analysis of environmental issues and policies, in order to inform advocacy and action advancing Clean Wisconsin’s environmental priorities. He also works to build the research base of Clean Wisconsin, expand the use of science in environmental decision-making throughout the state, and maintain Clean Wisconsin’s position as an expert resource for environmental science.
Prior to joining Clean Wisconsin, Tyson was an energy efficiency and renewable energy consultant. His work included first-in-the-nation field testing of emerging energy efficient technologies like LED lighting, and project management on the California Solar Initiative and CaliforniaSolarStatistics.org. He also served as a resident engineer for Engineers without Borders in Tanzania, and was a founding member of the Stanford Solar and Wind Energy Project. He holds a Master of Science degree in civil and environmental engineering from the Atmosphere/ Energy group at Stanford University. He has also studied environmental health science at the University of Michigan. At K he majored in physics and studied abroad in Budapest, Hungary. He has conducted research in fields including climate change, energy efficiency, renewable energy and public health.
Whitney is the new executive director of Land Information Access Association (LIAA), a Traverse City, Mich.-based nonprofit that works with communities across Michigan to improve civic engagement, with a focus on strengthening the cultural and natural resources that support resilient, sustainable communities. Whitney will oversee all LIAA’s programs, including community planning, development, and resource management; website and database development and IT support; geographic information system and mapping services; and LIAA’s UpNorth Media Center, which houses the public- and government-access television services for all of northwest Lower Michigan. Whitney joined LIAA after 10 years at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in Washington, D.C., most recently as vice president of operations. Her professional expertise includes strategic planning, grants, project management, operations, and organizational development. She earned her MBA degree from Kent State University. Whitney now lives in Traverse City with her husband and three sons.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies recently featured Paul’s work in its column “Careers in Development.” Paul is executive vice president for communications at ACDI/VOCA, a private, nonprofit organization that promotes broad-based economic growth, higher living standards, and vibrant communities in low-income countries and emerging democracies. Paul’s career in agriculture, food security, and global development spans 40 years and has taken him to 70 countries, including long-term assignments in Senegal, Mauritania, Indonesia, Barbados, and Kenya. In those locations he headed agribusiness programs that incorporated activities in policy reform, business group strengthening, commercial marketing, equity financing, and investment promotion. Paul earned his B.A. at K in theatre arts and studied abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France. He earned a M.B.A. at Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Rayline is vice president of development at the Kalamazoo Nature Center.
Samantha is an energy policy and planning analyst at Pacific Gas and Electric Company. She has been working for the last five years in the renewable energy field. In addition to her bachelor’s degree from K (political science and environmental studies), she holds a master’s degree in urban and environmental policy and planning from Tufts University.
“. . . we go to poetry … so that we might more fully inhabit our lives and the world in which we live them, and that if we more fully inhabit these things, we might be less apt to destroy both.” – Christian Wiman, poet
Amy Newday plants seeds in soil (she runs her own farm), and she plants seeds in students (she directs K’s Writing Center and teaches classes in the English department). Some seeds grow green crops. Others grow green poetry.
Newday recently completed a winter term course called “Ecopoetry,” and is currently teaching a spring term senior Capstone class called “CSA (community-supported agriculture) and Sustainability.” The two courses are an integral part of Kalamazoo College’s ongoing creation of a Center for Environmental Stewardship, teaching students about the impact of human life on their world.
“I feel a strong call to be of service to the earth and the non-human beings we share it with,” says Newday. “As I get older and get to know myself better and as our ecological crises worsen, this call becomes stronger. What I was curious to explore with my students in the ecopoetry course was—what does poetry have to do with ecological crises? Can poetry be a vehicle for transforming our relationships with the ecosystems in which we dwell?”
A farmer and a poet, Newday grew up on dairy farm in Shelbyville, Michigan. Her “Ecopoetry” course drew thirteen students, all of whom participated in a reading on campus to draw their class to a close. Each student read a poem from the textbook that had especially moved or inspired them.
Emily Sklar ’15 was one of those students, a biology major with an interest in ecological issues. “I love biology, although I’m not quite sure yet what I will do with it,” Sklar says. “I also love being outdoors, and I’m concerned about the environment, so I’ve been wondering how to combine all that. Science comes short on the ethical and moral aspect of ecological issues, so that’s why I took the poetry course. Poetry gives me another way to understand what’s around me, and the course has given me a blend of language that builds collaboration between scientists and poets.”
“Ecopoetry” is a relatively new term, if not quite a genre in its own right, Newday explains. “Writing about daffodils is no longer enough. Critics beat up poets like Mary Oliver for being what they call a ‘nature poet,’ writing about birds and trees. Writing about birds and trees is important, but ecopoetry includes the bulldozer that knocks the tree down and destroys the bird.”
Three main groupings of poetry compose the new genre, Newday says. As defined by Ann Fisher-Wirth and Laura Gray-Street, the editors Newday’s class textbook, The Ecopoetry Anthology, poetry that explores nature and the meaning of life falls into the first group. A second group includes environmental poetry with a more political slant that may address social justice issues and is often related to specific events. The third group includes poetry about ecology, often in more experimental forms.
“In this course we explored how the language of poetry has shaped and reflected changing perceptions of nature, ecology, and humanity over the past two centuries,” Newday says. “We looked at what poetry can contribute to current cultural and cross-cultural conversations about environmental justice and sustainability.”
Students at the reading in March read favorite poets they had studied, such as, yes, Mary Oliver, and also Alicia Suskin Ostriker, Ralph Black, G. E. Patterson, Deborah Miranda, Tony Hoagland, Robert Duncan, Lucille Clifton, Lola Haskins, Sandra Beasley, and Linda Hogan. Some students also read their own work.
“I’m not a big reader,” Sklar admits. “But I fell in love with this poetry. What I had hoped would happen, happened. The facts in science are great, but poetry gives us a way to connect to people who aren’t scientists.”
The ecopoetry course, Sklar adds, helped her to solidify an idea for her Senior Individualized Project that she’d been mulling over for about a year. Her interest in nature, biology, ecology, and human responses to all three came together in a plan to hike the entire Appalachian Trail. Along with a K alumna, Margaux Reckard ‘13, Sklar began 2,200-mile adventure a few days after the poetry course concluded (see “Where the TinyTent AT?” in this issue of BeLight).
“Poetry can help us question,” Newday says. “We are losing all kinds of diversity in our world, and cultures and languages are being lost along with biodiversity. Languages each give us a unique way to see the world and add perspective. Poetry can help us imagine possibilities … possible solutions to ecological crises.”
In her senior Capstone course, “CSA and Sustainability,” Newday digs even deeper into building connections between students and the earth. Along with textbooks, she hands them trowels, hoes, shovels and watering cans. She takes her students to her own CSA operation, Harvest of Joy Farm, where she and partner John Edgerton practice sustainable and organic methods of farming.
The Capstone course, Newday says, offers students the opportunity to explore and experience food systems, agriculture, community building, education, economics, business, and food justice as an alternative to the mainstream food economy. If that sounds like it’s dealing with a great many topics—it is, and that’s the everyday life of a farmer.
Part of the course will take place in the traditional campus classroom, and for at least three hours each week students will work on the farm. They will help plan the CSA business, prepare the soil for planting and then plant a wide assortment of seeds and plants, maintain compost and learn about permaculture, and maintain and harvest the garden. Students will also experience the business aspects of running a CSA, the marketing and selling of vegetables to community members, and the relationships built between farmer and community members.
The course will also involve an ongoing blog of farm activities, and a student-generated on-campus collaborative project. Students will participate in discussions about their experiences and observations working on the farm.
In informational sessions held prior to the beginning of the course, Newday and Edgerton met with students interested in learning more information before making a decision to enroll.
“I was surprised how much I loved running a CSA,” Newday says to the students gathered to hear about the course. “The relationships we developed through the CSA were very rewarding. There’s an instant gratification when you give good food to people, and you see how excited they are to receive it, taste it, and share it.”
The concept of a CSA, Newday tells the students, is not the traditional business model of trading cash for product. “A CSA offers people the opportunity to invest in the kind of world they want to live in.”
The Harvest of Joy Farm is in its fourth year. At the beginning of last summer’s (2013) growing season, 45 members paid for 28 shares and half-shares in the operation, which provided the funds to cover the costs of farming. In return, shareholders receive vegetables and fruits each week during harvest.
“The course will help students to better understand the economics of farming, especially on a small scale, and to consider how small farms fit into the larger agricultural economy, in the United States and across the world,” says Newday. “Along with learning about sustainable agricultural practices, students will learn how to critically consider what it means to make environmentally, socially, and ethically sound food choices.”
To learn more about the Kalamazoo College Capstone CSA experience, read student blog entries, and view photos, visit kzoocsa.blogspot.com. To learn more about Harvest of Joy Farm, LLC, visit harvestofjoyfarm.wordpress.com.