UMass Amherst Hosts National ‘Revisioning Sustainability’ Conference

Poster for Revisioning Sustainability Conference

As part of its national leadership role in campus sustainability, local and sustainable food, and permaculture programs, UMass Amherst hosted its third annual hands-on, skill-building food sustainability conference from June 22-25.

The opening keynote address by sustainable food educator and activist Pandora Thomas of California-based Earthseed Consulting was offered free and open to the public on the first evening of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Dining Services and Permaculture Initiative’s “Revisioning Sustainability” conference. Thomas spoke about the importance of social permaculture and making sustainability work relevant to diverse communities.

Also at the keynote event, conference organizers presented Amherst Regional High School student Sophia Dwinell with a full scholarship to the conference in appreciation of her January letter to the editor of the Amherst Bulletin. In it, she congratulated UMass Amherst for taking part in the Real Food Challenge and called on the national Real Food movement to “reach out to younger students as well in elementary, middle and high schools.”

Keynote speaker Thomas, a certified permaculture teacher who co-founded the Bay Area consulting firm, has worked on projects ranging from an eco-literacy program, “Green Life at San Quentin,” to recently founding the Black Permaculture Network to engage a broader, more diverse audience around integrating permaculture design into social advocacy.

She says, “Sustainability, in its broadest sense, is at play all around us. Whether it is at play in our environment, our economic or even our social systems, we all have stories and roots that connect us to our shared legacy of sustainable living especially in relation to our food system. The problem, however, is that the contemporary food system has become far removed from that sustainable legacy. This needs to change.”

The UMass Amherst conference drew students, faculty and staff from other universities, food service managers, chefs, sustainability coordinators and business people from around the nation. Each became part of an international network that supports regenerative food systems and learned how to create successful action plans and marketing strategies and to build socially and environmentally conscious gardens. Attendees also learned about campus permaculture initiatives, waste recovery and composting systems, food justice and the Real Food Challenge, says Meghan Little, assistant manager for UMass Auxiliary Sustainability and this year’s conference manager.

Keynote Speaker Pandora Thomas

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