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Presenting the Sustainable Food Systems 2023 Graduate Cohort

September 25, 2023

We are thrilled to introduce Arizona State University’s 2023 cohort in the Food Policy & Sustainability Leadership graduate certificate program and Sustainable Food Systems MS program. This marks our 5th cohort of students, and by far the largest and most diverse.

Committed to shaping food and farm policy in the public interest, this dynamic group of 35 leaders represents 19 different states and a wide range of professions, including chefs, dietitians, retailers, landscape architects, grant writers, educators, and numerous community and school garden managers. This cohort showcases remarkable diversity in terms of ethnicity, nationality, and race.

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The Increasing and Ever-Evolving Role of Trade in American Agriculture

September 22, 2023

By Kelly Sheridan, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student

During our immersive week in Washington, D.C., my graduate school cohort had the privilege to meet with Alexis Taylor, USDA Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs (TFAA), and her chief of staff, Jamal Habibi. Under Secretary Taylor is only the second official to hold this position.  No stranger to USDA, Under Secretary Taylor served at the department from 2013 – 2017 in a variety of different roles, with the last being delegated the duties of the Under Secretary for the then Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services mission area. Taylor then went on to become the Director of Agriculture for the State of Oregon until 2022.

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An Inside Look at Efforts at USDA to Build a Resilient Food System

September 20, 2023

By Amy Mattias, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student

The halls of the USDA Whitten Building in Washington, D.C. were filled with chatter as our group of Sustainable Food Systems graduate students headed to hear from the Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs (MRP), Jennifer Lester Moffitt, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Administrator, Bruce Summers, and AMS Associate Administrator, Melissa Bailey. USDA has eight mission areas overseen by Under Secretaries, one of which is Marketing and Regulatory Programs. As Under Secretary for this mission area, Moffitt works closely with Administrator Summers and Associate Administrator Bailey as she directs the work of AMS along with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). These two agencies are leaders in setting national and international standards, regulating genetic modification techniques, protecting the domestic health and welfare of plants and animals, and the marketing of all agricultural products produced domestically.

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Strategies for Successful Policy Making: Building and Sustaining Relationships

September 15, 2023

By Leanne Kami, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student.

Graduate students from the ASU Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems got a taste of policy in action this spring as part of a weeklong immersive experience in Washington, D.C., focused on food policy.  Among the tools and tactics shared by experts, ranging from rulemaking to media and advocacy, a common theme shared throughout the week was the importance of networks and relationships.

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Behind the Scenes with the Office of Management and Budget

September 11, 2023

By Kaysey England, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student.

During our Sustainable Food Systems graduate program food policy immersion experience in the spring of 2023, we had the opportunity to learn more about the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). We were joined by Ruth Saunders, Agriculture Branch Chief, and Nora Stein, Program Examiner, to learn of the critical role OMB plays in the United States government.

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Moving Dollars and Driving Innovation: The Farm Production and Conservation Mission Area

August 30, 2023

By Connor Kaeb, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student.

Recently, the Sustainable Food Systems graduate cohort from Arizona State University spent a week in Washington, DC, meeting with policy leaders and influencers in our nation’s capital. As part of this immersive experience, we had the opportunity to meet with leaders from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) mission area.

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Public Servant Passionate for Housing and Urban Policy

August 24, 2023

By: Mauricio Cordova Flores, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student.

His passion for solving social-economic issues has driven Chad Maisel’s career through positions at the USDA, Senator Cory Booker’s office, and two positions at the White House. He is currently the Special Assistant to the President for Housing and Urban Policy at the White House Domestic Policy Council. My graduate cohort had the opportunity to meet with Chad on May 8th, 2023, the first day of our Applied Food Policy immersive class in Washington, DC.

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Breaking Silos and Building Equity in Rural Development

August 21, 2023

By Janell Bohreer, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student.

Note: This blog was originally written in May of 2023. On July 17, 2023, Xochitl Torres Small was confirmed by the Senate and sworn in as Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The food policy immersion week in Washington, D.C. affords students in ASU’s Sustainable Food Systems graduate programs an unparalleled experience. This year, the 2022 cohort had the distinct and fortuitous opportunity to meet with the Under Secretary of Rural Development, Xochitl Torres Small. Despite a hectic schedule of committee hearings following her recent nomination for Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Under Secretary Torres Small graciously set aside time to address the future leaders in sustainable agriculture policy. Her passion and commitment to the mission of Rural Development were immediately apparent when she discussed her role delivering on the priorities of the Biden-Harris administration.

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Mission Nutrition with Kumar Chandran, USDA Senior Advisor

July 20, 2023

By Sarah Williams, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student.

Our cohort was extremely fortunate to spend a week in Washington D.C. to learn more about the intricacies and complexities of policy making. We met with many varied stakeholders working within the policy sphere to learn about the impacts one can have and the many paths that can lead you there. One such individual that I was especially ecstatic to meet was Kumar Chandran.

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Congresswoman Chellie Pingree: Farmer and Food Systems Advocate

June 30, 2023

By Elizabeth Reilly, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student.

In her remarks to a room full of agriculture advocates and change agents, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME) emphasized that “farmers are leading the way” in building a more sustainable food system. There is no one more emblematic of that statement than Congresswoman Pingree herself. As both a certified organic farmer and member of Congress, she’s long been at the forefront of food systems change.

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Takeaways of the 2022 Food & Farm Immersion

May 10, 2023

By: Samking Braima, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student. 

This blog captures the reflections and main takeaways of the Food and Farm Immersion course from a handful of students within this year's graduate cohort. The immersive is a key component of the curriculum for the Food Policy and Sustainability Leadership graduate certificate and the Sustainable Food Systems master's degree. These comments were collected during the trip from observations and conversations, as well as after the trip via email and text when the students returned home and had time to consolidate their experiences. While the reflections vary in a lot of aspects, similar themes of eye-opening experiences, inspiring learnings, and comradery stood out from their responses. To read the student bios, click here.

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Public-Private Partnerships in Food Systems: How It’s Done at the Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture

May 5, 2023

By: Janell Bohreer, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student.

Note: Paul Brierley has now transitioned into a new position as Director of the Arizona Department of Agriculture.

The close of fall semester is busy with final exams and papers along with holiday travel plans for most students at Arizona State University. For sustainable food systems graduate students, the end of the semester kicks off Professor Merrigan’s favorite course: the Food and Farm Immersion. Students enrolled in the program have the singular opportunity to visit and speak with people at the forefront of Arizona’s food systems operations. This year’s immersive provided firsthand, comprehensive introductions to many aspects of our state’s food systems, from touring ranches, farms, and community gardens to inspecting produce with an agent at USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service office. As future leaders, this immersion course allowed us to listen to various perspectives from many diverse stakeholders, laying the foundation for effective policymaking.

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Pioneering Farm to School

May 1, 2023

By: Jocelyn Moguin, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student. 

Garfield Elementary School, located in Phoenix, Arizona, is pioneering the Farm to School movement through science, nourishment, leadership, sustainability, collaboration, and social and emotional aspects.

In December of 2022, Arizona State University Sustainable Food Systems Graduate Students had the opportunity to explore integral parts in food systems through a weeklong immersive experience across the state. Of these places, Garfield’s Garden on the Corner at Garfield Elementary School was a truly inspiring stop.

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Land and Community Stewardship at Gila River Farms

April 28, 2023

By: Payton Moore, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student. 

A week-long immersive tour around diverse Arizona agricultural areas brought my classmates and I to Gila River Farms in Sacaton and Casa Blanca, Arizona. Covering almost 11,000 acres, Gila River Farms provides for the Gila River Indian Community by offering a wide range of food products and employment opportunities.

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Searching for Pests with USDA

April 20, 2023

By: Brock LaChapelle, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student. 

This past fall, the ASU Sustainable Food Systems cohort visited the APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine facility in Yuma, Arizona.  APHIS is an agency within the United States Department of Agriculture that oversees and initiates response pertaining to animal health, animal welfare and plant health. Additionally, they ensure that U.S. agricultural and food products meet the importing countries' criteria for entering their territories. APHIS is divided into various operations including Animal Care, Biotechnology Regulatory Services, International Services, Plant Protection and Quarantine, Veterinary Services, and Wildlife Services.

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Returning to Our Roots at Hayden Flour Mills

April 12, 2023

 By: Tim Sullivan, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student. 

Our ASU graduate cohort arrived at Hayden Flour Mills, our last stop of the second day on our Arizona food and farm immersion, as the sun was gently moving downwards towards the western horizon. It was peacefully quiet while we soaked in the ambiance and awaited our tour.

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A Look Beyond Olives as Oil

April 6, 2023

By: Jacob DeFant, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student. 

In early December of 2022, two dozen students from the new Food Policy and Sustainability Leadership cohort piled out of large Suburban’s, peeling off their extra layers from the early morning as they adjusted to the warm, sunny, and welcoming weather of central Arizona. The students had just arrived at Queen Creek Olive Mill for their next stop during their weeklong course focused on immersing students in the agriculture industry of Arizona. Tired from long days of traveling, the students stretched and readied themselves for another deep dive into Arizona food systems. The students did not expect the unique perspective Queen Creek Olive Mill had to offer on its unique participation in Arizona agriculture.

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Collaborating to Save Agriculture in Arizona

March 29, 2023

By: Copeland Vidal, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student. 

The 2022 Sustainable Food Systems graduate cohort includes individuals from different states, professional backgrounds, and experiences. The program's administrators brought us to Arizona for a week to observe agricultural operations and meet with stakeholders. During our Immersive, the cohort met several industry stakeholders, including the Director of the Arizona Department of Agriculture (AZDA), Mark Killian, who had an engaging discussion with us early in the morning. He wowed the students with his extensive knowledge of Arizona's agriculture, geography, industries, climate, and challenges faced by farmers. In addition, Director Killian shared his optimism for the future through his experience as a farmer and the state's leading voice on agriculture.  

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A Journey to a More Sustainable Kitchen with Atlasta Catering

March 20, 2023

By: Chelsea Radford, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student. 

Have you ever worked in a restaurant and noticed the amount of waste produced daily? The endless cycle of taking bag after bag of trash to a dumpster at the end of each night? Well, Steve Short noticed and decided he could do something about it. In December of 2022, the Sustainable Food Systems master’s students at ASU were lucky enough to taste Atlasta’s delicious creations when they catered an event during the Food and Farm Immersion course in Arizona.

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