Chancellor's support added to 'overwhelming' business, community help

MARIN - College of Marin is able to move ahead with its Sustainable Food Systems program due to a new two-year chancellor's grant of $374,254.

[caption id="attachment_13795" align="alignright" width="259" caption=" College of Marin Indian Valley Campus Organic Farm student Coleman Cosby harvests chard and lettuce."][/caption]

"This is a welcome ray of light in an otherwise gloomy and dark economic climate," said College of Marin Superintendent and President Dr. Frances White. "These funds couldn't have arrived at a better time and will ensure that our organic garden educational program continues to thrive."

The project is a collaboration between the Conservation Corps North Bay and University of California Cooperative Extension. It is designed to provide the education and training resources for a skilled, entrepreneurial work force in the fields of organic agriculture and sustainable local food systems.

"The support from the industry, from the business and community leaders is overwhelming," said Nanda Schorske, dean of Workforce Development, College and Community Partnerships at the school. "We knew we had the support, but when it came time to get letters of commitment, it was about triple what was expected in matching funds. It ensures the success of the Bay Area Alliance for Sustainable Food Systems Education, Workforce and Economic Development project for the next two years and beyond."

[caption id="attachment_13796" align="alignleft" width="252" caption="College of Marin Indian Valley Campus Organic Farm student Sophia Setrakian helps tend crops."][/caption]

The project is a venture that includes funds and financial commitments from more than 26 industry partners. It is the first industry-driven work force development program of its kind within the California Community College system, and it is hoped that it becomes and will be a model for other colleges and communities throughout the state.

Ohlone and Mission community colleges are also involved with the project.

The funds provide management needed for a venture of this kind, Ms. Schorske said. In addition to hiring a farm manager for a new two-acre organic farm, buying farm equipment and adding an irrigation system, college faculty will meet this summer with partners to develop new curriculum for the fall.

Four sustainable farm-related classes will be taught in the fall: Principles and Practices of Organic Farm and Gardening, Integrated Pest Management, Environmental Landscape Design and Intro to Sustainable Horticulture. Classes start week of Aug. 17.

This two-year initiative is funded by a community college Chancellor's Office grant of $374,254 and matching resources by partners of $1,114,210.

For more information, visit www.marin.cc.ca.us.