Sarah Berquist, program advisor for the Sustainable Food & Farming major, is headed to the Slow Flowers Summit in Seattle.  The conference, which brings together flower growers, designers, educators, innovators, and influencers, puts an emphasis on gathering diverse voices from across the fields of domestic floral agriculture and sustainable floristry. 

This June, she will attend the conference with the goal of capturing "stories from the field" using an audio recorder. 

Berquist plans to bring actual voices from organizations, like Black Girl Florists and Black Flower Farmers, to a modern revival of a classic Stockbridge course: Retail Floral Design.

The course will bring together students from multiple Stockbridge majors, including Horticulture, Plant & Soil Sciences, and Sustainable Food & Farming, and it will share the goals of the Slow Flowers Summit -- to stimulate curiosity, examine conventional assumptions, and explore conscious and ethical practices in the floral industry.

The project demonstrates how the research appointments of Stockbridge faculty perpetually revitalize and renew the content of Stockbridge courses, placing students at the vanguard of new developments in the field.

"I'm eager to learn from and connect with new flower growers and designers committed to sustainable and ethical practices, and to capture some that knowledge inspiration to share with my class," says Berquist.  

The cost of traveling to Washington State, and the work to edit her recordings into short-form audio clips suitable for podcasting, are supported by a competitive award from the College of Natural Science Lecturers' Professional Development Fund.  The fund supports early-career faculty activities that contribute to their scholarship and effectiveness as teachers and mentors.  Berquist knows that diversifying the floral industries starts by adding diversity to the classroom.

"My teaching is always evolving to be more dynamic," explains Berquist, "and I strive to include as many learning styles as possible in my activities and assignments."

This is the second win by Berquist, who also competitively received the award in 2018.

STOCKSCH 210 Retail Floral Design can be taken this Fall by any UMass student interested in horticulture, floriculture, or design.