Welcome to Doctor Tales!

Welcome! Doctor Tales is a new blog to help doctoral students succeed during and beyond their academic journeys.


Welcome! Doctor Tales is a new blog to help doctoral students succeed during and beyond their academic journeys. We are Dr. Bessie DiDomenica (PhD) and Dr. Patricia Mason (DBA), two doctors who took the journey. We earned our doctoral degrees in 2015 and offer our strategies for other doctoral candidates to succeed.

Three years on, we are still write and encourage adult learners to pursue their educational dreams.

2018 updates: Dr. Patti’s research on electronic health records implementation (EHR) is a hot topic in the world of healthcare! She is in demand as an expert in EHR in rural health clinics. This year, Dr. Patti received her Reiki Certified Master/Teacher certificate. She will write more on the value of relaxation for anyone pursuing their academic dream.

Dr. Bessie is exploring a writing business for scholars and adult learners. She will facilitate a panel discussion on mobile food markets at an urban farming conference, and is working on several book projects. Dr. Bessie is very excited about her plans to create a foundation to help older and special needs cats and dogs.

Dr. Patti and Dr. Bessie are also writing a book for  adult learners and graduate students. We’ll post more updates as things develop.

We truly embrace our new roles as scholar-practitioners, and encourage others to take their education beyond the classroom.

Continue reading “Welcome to Doctor Tales!”

Who Are Tomorrow’s Farmers?

Burkina Faso and Thailand. These two countries are far apart on the map. But they share a common goal: to create a dynamic infrastructure around local agriculture. For example, Burkina Faso offers training for poor women to generate income through micro-gardening. These women learn to grow food for their families and sell the surplus in the marketplace. Thailand is developing programs to repopulate rural areas. New farmers are leaving the city to start small agricultural operations.

Both examples support a new generation of farmers, an exciting and dynamic infrastructure. Women in Burkina Faso, West Africa are using gardening to build the local food system in their communities. And young adults in urban areas are going back to the land and starting farms in Thailand. Can these countries expand the network of small holder farms?  How can women farmers contribute to the global food system? Why are young adults leaving urban life behind?

Continue reading “Who Are Tomorrow’s Farmers?”

How To Write Your Dissertation? Make A Plan

For many things in life, you need a plan. You can plan to take a holiday, or go shopping on a whim. When it comes to writing your dissertation, you really need a plan. Actually, if you have several plans that’s even better. You can’t just write your thesis statement or dissertation. Yes, the dissertation can be a nightmare, but it’s nothing more than a very complex writing plan. You’ll have a template to follow and it’s your job to fill in the blanks. It can be a scary feeling to sit there staring at a blank screen waiting for the ideas to flow. You are the only one who can do it – your dissertation won’t write itself. But is a writing plan enough? What other kind of plans do you need?

Continue reading “How To Write Your Dissertation? Make A Plan”

Food Talk: Why Regionalism Matters

Sustainability. Resilient agriculture. Social justice. Environmentalism. Do you know what these words mean? These are some of them describe our agricultural system. And they contribute to the complexities of food systems and food policy. Some words are jargon, politically correct, or used to widen the gap between small rural farmers and urban farmers. I discussed some of these concepts in my dissertation on urban farming and urban agriculture.

I wrote it for a very narrow audience of my colleagues. But in the real world, I rarely use these words. One reason is that each word has a different meaning to different people. It depends on what you do (small farm or agribusiness), where you live (rural or urban), and your farming practices (agrobiodiversity or monocropping). For example, I used to think that “sustainability” was the best way to describe good farming practices. That was until I learned that sustainability has over 100 definitions.

It’s hard to rely on a word with such flexibility. You have to keep explaining it in context: environmental sustainability, agricultural sustainability, social sustainability, or economic sustainability. I’ve moved on to more precise words, the topic of this week’s blog. Here’s an interesting word: regionalism. It’s an expression, custom or feature of a specific area. What’s the problem with regionalism? How does it translate in the world of food policy reform? What’s the best way to talk to stakeholders in rural and urban communities?

Continue reading “Food Talk: Why Regionalism Matters”

Alt-Ac Toolkit: Freelancing at Academic Conferences

Academic conferences can seem like a strange place for those of us in the alt-ac world. Conferences may not feel like a good fit for freelance academics – as freelancers, we’re not affiliated with mainstream higher education. But academic conferences offer a place to meet and pitch your book to editors, offer a workshop, and present a research paper. Even as a freelance academic, you have a voice as a scholar and expert.

Continue reading “Alt-Ac Toolkit: Freelancing at Academic Conferences”

1.1 Billion: Global Agriculture and Smallholder Farmers

Last week, the CDC retracted its 2016 report on suicide rates by occupational group because it “misclassified farming, fishing and forestry workers.” The numbers were skewed to show that farmers committed suicide more than any other occupational group. The media made the conclusion that there was a “farmer suicide crisis” – and got it all wrong. But it made great headlines just as the politicians were hashing out the 2018 the Farm Bill. The Farm Bill includes funding to help farmers and ranchers with emotional and mental problems.

But the largest population at risk is the farm workers. These are the 80-90% of the people who harvest our food and make up the bulk of the farming industry. And the CDC has no way to find out the true suicide rate in farm workers because their work is seasonal. In addition, women farm workers struggle with rape, sexual abuse, and fear every day. Their stories don’t make the headlines. Many workers fear the loss of their family’s income if they complain or file a police report.

Full protection under the law is not a reality for migrant workers. Abuse of farm workers is an epidemic on farms across America – a discussion I’ll save for another blog. This week’s blog is about our global agriculture workforce. Continue reading “1.1 Billion: Global Agriculture and Smallholder Farmers”

School Is Not For Everyone

Editor’s Note: Higher education institutions (HEI) are challenged by the frenzy of anti-intellectual rhetoric. It’s true that HEI has a static culture and outdated traditions that support group think and snobbery. But a formal education is optional in today’s shifting economy…

Education is something in life that is very personal. Well, sort of.  Sometimes we have a burning passion to do something in the world, something that may or may not require a formal education. For example veterinarians, psychiatrists, or nurse midwives need special training. But many of us fall into careers that don’t need formal education. Life experience is an education in itself and school is not for everyone

Continue reading “School Is Not For Everyone”

How To Get It Wrong: What “Farmer Suicide Crisis”?

Working as a non-academic creative, I enjoy reading and writing about my interest in food policy. I try to be thorough and avoid stepping into the abyss of misinformation. But this time,  I stepped into it big time. Recently, I was stung by the misinformation monster: media’s error in reporting a story. My doctoral education taught me to evaluate data with an open mind. Or so I thought.

How did several media sources (New York Times, Mother Jones, NPR, the Guardian) misread the 2016 CDC report on suicide rates? The CDC reported suicide rates by occupational group in 17 states. Suddenly, headlines about the “farmer suicide crisis” appeared. But was is really a “crisis”? And why didn’t I deep dive or look below the surface? Here’s the story correction to my blog Farmer Suicide, STRESS and Mental Health. What happened? What important data did we miss? Continue reading “How To Get It Wrong: What “Farmer Suicide Crisis”?”