News from Tilth Producers of Washington:

Please contact Washington State University President Elson Floyd, Provost Warwick Bayly and Dean Daniel Bernardo by May 29th about the proposed elimination of the Department of Community Studies and Rural Sociology (CRS).

The Washington State Association of Organic and Sustainable Agricultural Producers

May 29,  2009                                                              

Dear President Elson Floyd, Provost Warwick Bayly, and Dean Daniel Bernardo,

On behalf of many of our state’s agriculture organizations, individuals and businesses we must urge that you reconsider the decision to eliminate the Department of Community Studies and Rural Sociology (CRS).  While we understand the theoretical logic of vertical cuts as opposed to horizontal cuts this type of decision makes the erroneous conclusion that these departments have become redundant and are no longer necessary.

While the world food supply has become completely dependant on Production Agriculture, our land grant institutions have both guided and been forced to serve the decoupling of food supply from place.  To create healthy people, places, and communities requires the antithesis of global food production and distribution systems.  To measure and prove this requires the science provided by the Department of Community Studies and Rural Sociology.

The faculty in this department, provide critically important work measuring the economic, environmental and social sustainability aspects of local food systems issues.  These quantitative measurements provide a critical bridge between proposed food system changes and the people and communities they will impact.  For those of us working toward meaningful food system change, having access to this kind of innovative and applied research is critical.  Funders and policy-makers alike increasingly require that we measure the impacts of our programs and efforts supporting the viability and sustainability of local producers and communities.  CRS provides that support.

In last week’s Capital Press, it was reported that there is a national outcry from Deans and faculty from Sociology Departments in dozens of states across the country, including former Dean of WSU CAHE, Jim Zuiches, regarding the elimination of this Department.  This is no small matter and proves how far from the communities they serve the administrative leadership of WSU has moved.
Faculty and staff within CRS are on the cutting edge of survey methodology in the United States, community development projects, (particularly the new Latino community project,) and agriculture and food studies.

This includes groundbreaking work and outreach on the Agriculture Census and other agricultural and food system surveys which enable local communities to understand and better respond to local population dynamics and needs, and  to apply for public and private support for key community development initiatives.  The recently established Latino community project was already making progress on addressing culturally appropriate research and educational programs for the Latino community, including immigrant farmer education and farm worker-to-farm owner programs. 

At a time when there is significant and growing interest in local food systems across the country, when we have been approaching “World Class” with the first Organic Agriculture major, outstanding work by CSANR and Small Farm Program Faculty, when we have a growing rural Latino population, and young people looking to study and expand our ability to address food system issues, it is extremely short-sighted to eliminate the critical resources that will help us identify and evaluate meaningful initiatives for our people, communities and state.

The proposed elimination of CRS sends a very powerful, negative message to all of us who care about the future of our local food systems and communities – that healthy family farms, healthy rural communities and a sustainable regional food system is not a priority of our land grant university.
Anne Schwartz
Tilth Producers of Washington
Trudy Bialic,
Puget Consumers Co-op

Posted in Food Justice Blog Posts.

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