Sustainable Agriculture Program earns national award for innovation

Courtesy / Grand Valley Sustainable Agriculture Project

Courtesy / Grand Valley Sustainable Agriculture Project

Allison Rafferty

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities held their annual meeting in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 28, in which Grand Valley State University’s Sustainable Agriculture Program (SAP) won a national award for innovation.

Two SAP representatives, Campus Sustainability Coordinator Yumi Jakobcic and SAP Manager Youssef Darwich, were in attendance to accept the Innovative Project Award. Jakobcic explained that they were considered for the award after they responded to a call for submissions. 

“We were recommended to apply for the award because we had demonstrated a lot of innovation and success,” Darwich said.

The SAP has become increasingly more advanced in its innovation since its humble beginnings in 2008. “It was just a small community garden without a whole lot of structure or oversight.” 

However, that small community garden has turned into the multi functioning, interdisciplinary program that is now known as the SAP.

“I think what sets us apart is our drive to engage multiple disciplines at the SAP,” Jakobcic said. “We are not a traditional farm run by only agriculture students. We are an interdisciplinary program at our core. We are run by a diversity of representatives from across campus and we welcome everyone to participate.” 

Darwich added that the SAP is “able to pull people from all around the university.” Pulling people from the around the university has been what the SAP has been doing for the last decade.

“We are helping students to lead more sustainable lifestyles, and what I like most about sustainability is that it’s applicable to every major, so they can carry these lessons and experiences with them no matter what path they take after GVSU,” Jakobcic said. 

The SAP opens up opportunities for classes to get involved and for student interns. In 2017, the SAP had over 20 interns from 12 different disciplines. According to Darwich, the variety of majors provides students with a glimpse into a world they may not have explored before.

“The biggest thing (is that) we give students a real world outlet,” Darwich said. “It gives them an opportunity to explore areas they might want to go into.”

Jakobcic explained that students interested in joining the program simply need to go to the drop-in volunteer hours on Mondays and Fridays from 1-4 p.m. or on Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

“Come to the farm, come see us at events, stop by our office, consider an internship with us,” Darwich said. “We are here to support students and look forward to working with you.”