Students in our lab are given ample opportunity to engage with community, including our partners engaging in food advocacy work in our region, and organic farming communities. Our students are involved in collaborative research and outreach with our partner Big River Farms - The Food Group, whose mission is to offer education in organic agriculture for farmers who have historically been underrepresented in farm ownership—including BIPOC, women, and New American farmers. We also have an active collaboration with Red Lake Nation College designed to offer tribal college students soil science research experiences. Within our UMN community, Grossman Lab students organize events through their interdisciplinary graduate club FEASt, the Food, Environment, and Agricultural Studies graduate group. Woven throughout all we do is the delivery of science-based information through workshops delivered at farmer conferences such as Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES), the Great Lakes Indigenous Farming Conference, and the MN Organics Conference.
We work hard to develop communication skills students can take with them beyond graduate school, via collaboration with organizations doing work that is meaningful in our community.
FEASt is an interdisciplinary initiative started by members of the Grossman Lab in 2014 to bring together students from across the University of Minnesota to learn about and discuss the intersections of natural and social science perspectives on agricultural research, politics, and social movements. The group seeks to facilitate dialogue to critically navigate the broad social, economic, and political concerns influencing the food and agricultural sciences. In 2020, FEASt was the honored recipient of the UMN Borealis Exemplary Graduate Student Organization Award. FEASt encourages participation from a wide array of people interested in these issues.
FEASt has gone through many iterations, but exists now as a meeting place for ideas around responsible science and how to leverage our knowledge to work in partnership with communities to address complex, multifaceted problems. We recognize that in order for our work to be impactful and lasting, it needs to be created, designed, and pursued in concert with communities. We value many forms of knowledge that contribute to a rich picture of societal challenges that may not be seen from a singular discipline or perspective. In order to better equip graduate students to pursue this type of work, FEASters initiated a class in Fall 2019 called “Critical Approached to Agroecology” that seeks to help students gain the knowledge, skills, and habits of mind to plan, implement, and evaluate sustained action in collaboration with others both within and beyond the University.
To be clear, FEASt has grown, and is no longer in the hands of the Grossman Lab, although many lab members still participate. We welcome students and partners from all walks of life to join us. No prior knowledge of the subject is assumed or required. Most importantly, we are interested in curiosity, critical thinking, challenging assumptions, and being sustained by the energy of each others’ company.