The metaphor of “sowing seeds” is often used when we speak about education. We plant the seeds of education, and who knows what will grow and how deep the roots will penetrate? On college campuses around the country, we are able to see and feel real community change and social action that has sprung up because of the planting of Heifer’s educational “seeds.” But a crop needs help from a farmer to grow to its full potential, and we’ve found that professors of Geography, Animal Science, Nutrition, Psychology, Political Science, Philosophy, and History can make great farmers. Read more to see how college and university faculty and staff can plant the seeds of sustainable development on their campuses and beyond. You may need to get your hands dirty!
If you were to travel to Honduras, you might find yourself staring up at the massive trunk of a La Ceiba tree. At 5 stories tall, the La Ceiba tree’s trunk can be as big around as some of the one-room homes commonly found in the area. The tree’s telephone-pole thick roots stretch out in all directions and erupt through the ground in some places, lifting the earth around it to form natural mounds and walkways. Sometimes, they meander slowly and willfully over the decades, causing ancient temples to crumble and cement sturdy walls to fall. Each of these trees came from a single seed, the offspring of yet another tree.
A group of Virginia Tech students looked upon a La Ceiba tree in Honduras this March. Although they came from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines, they were all students who had declared a new minor, part of that minor’s inaugural class. The minor was Civic Agriculture and Food Systems, and the professor behind it was Susan Clark. These students were studying the role that sustainable food systems have in ending hunger and poverty and keeping a society healthy. They traveled to Honduras to see Heifer’s projects dealing with food sovereignty in that country. These students are on their way to growing five stories tall and developing earth altering roots. The seeds for this experience were planted and germinated during trips to Heifer International Ranch and participation in Heifer U and Alternative Spring Break programs. At Purdue University, a visit from a Heifer volunteer to an animal science class sparked students to form a Heifer Club on campus, now one of the biggest and most active in the country. A phone conversation between a Heifer staff member and a Geography professor at the University of Alaska-Anchorage has blossomed into what that professor calls a “saturation” of Heifer on campus, complete with a club, integration into classes, and service learning components in the community. All of these relationships- all of this fruit- is the result of a seed planted with care and hope. But a crop without a farmer isn’t much of a crop at all.