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 It’s true that HEI has a static culture and outdated traditions that support group think and snobbery.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

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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”?”

How To Avoid Academic Snobbery

Some people believe a popular myth that education is the great equalizer – it’s supposed to level the playing field. Once you have it, doors should open, new adventures and opportunities come your way.

Yes, education is a wonderful tool to help you expand your views of the world, seek new ideas, and understand the power of knowledge.

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Flavors of Summer: Food Daze in June

The summer season officially starts this week – June 21 is the Summer Solstice! I’m taking a break from my usual food policy blog this week. In celebration of the new season, here are some special food days for your dining pleasure. Enjoy!

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Habits of Non-Academic Creatives

The world of higher education is in distress. Today’s higher ed teaching professionals are around 50% contingent faculty (adjuncts, visiting associate professors, doctoral candidates). Other faculty violated a student’s privacy, as in the case of a U. of California at San Diego professor who reveal confidential academic information on a public forum.

Throw in the rising cost of undergraduate tuition causing a “sticker shock effect” that limits a family’s ability to pay for college. And the ongoing crisis of sexual abuse and misconduct on college campuses around the country. A college education doesn’t guarantee a job. Many high school graduates are entering trade and vocational programs (construction, computer technology, culinary arts, veterinary tech) for job security. Is academia an attractive employment option? Are there other alternatives? What is a Non-Academic Creative? Continue reading “Habits of Non-Academic Creatives”

How to Reboot Our Food System

Food is ubiquitous – it’s everywhere and invisible. We ignore it, indulge in it, waste it, eat it raw, cooked, organic or genetically modified. We take it for granted that there will always be food around. But we can’t forget about those without: the 84% of refugees living in developing countries, or the small farmers around the world. These are the farmers who grow crops for the global food system and barely have enough to eat. Many of these farmers don’t get the subsidies they need to survive – the result is an increase in suicides in farming communities from India to New Zealand and across the US. What is the future of food for small farmers? Are agricultural technologies the best solution? What are the smart food policies to feed 10 billion people by 2050? Can we create resilient agriculture for the future?

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Refresh: Distance Learning for Adults

Online learning (OLL) has changed the way students and teachers interaction. In OLL, students and instructors are in a classroom and interact in person. The instructor guides the learning process. In distance learning (DL) students and instructors are in different locations with no personal interactions. Student learning is individualized using videos, audio recordings, email, webinars and ebooks.

Distance learning evolved from online learning. DL is convenient, saves time, and gives adults another doorway to get back into school. Adult students can face technology and social challenges in DL. They need a certain skill level with the technology. But students may need a support system from their social systems (family, work, learning environment). What practices can reduce anxiety, frustration, fear of technology, and financial costs for adult students? How can schools improve the success rate of these students? 

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Food Trends For Thought

Food is exotic and delightful. Its tangible and intangible features give food its global appeal. Food is tangible when we touch, smell, hear, taste, and see it when we prepare a meal. Food is intangible in our buying habits, when we romanticize food, or even when we resist eating healthy foods. The food industry (retailers, big food companies, brick and mortar, on-line) understand these food qualities. They are tools to lure customers and drive profit. Yes, food trends are part of food policy. Food trends for 2018 include a mixed attraction for foodies, farmers, parents, nutritionists, researchers, gardeners and consumers.

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Why Should I Write for Free?

One of the mantras of the academic world is that if you want a tenured job, you need to publish your work. You can publish your research in scholarly journals, or write an academic book or chapter. It’s another way to pay your dues for that tenured job you desire. IF there is a job. And IF you’re not stuck in adjunct purgatory.

The lure of publication is like a carrot on a stick. For adjuncts, visiting associate professors and doctoral candidates, publication might get your toe in the tenured-track door. Tenured faculty may see it as job security. And BTW, all this writing for publication is free – you don’t get paid for your time. So let’s talk about writing for free. What’s the upside for academics? What’s the problem? Is freelancing the same as writing for free?

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