As an out-of-state student at the University of Montana I found my Beyond the Classroom Experience to be a blessing in disguise. Originally, I had planned to spend a semester studying abroad at the University of Tasmania. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic my experience was cancelled, and I had to get creative to meet the GLI Beyond the Classroom requirements.
I am an Environmental Studies major and constantly heard about the intensive PEAS Farm class our department provides. I decided to participate in the class for my requirement. Although it wasn’t four months on a tropical rainforest island it was a 12-week experience I will never forget.
My Global Theme and Challenge for the GLI program is Natural Resource and Sustainability. I chose this theme because I’ve been interested in creating more accessible information on how to become more sustainable in our world’s everchanging situation. The PEAS Farm stands for Program in Ecological Agriculture and Sustainability. The program offers a summer long outdoor classroom experience learning about how to practice agriculture in a way that works with nature, and how to provide pounds of produce for the community in a sustainable way.
I grew up in a Minneapolis suburb where it seemed eating local meant grabbing a block of cheese labeled “Made in Wisconsin”. There wasn’t much education around the topic, and almost no time for hustling suburban families to understand the importance of knowing exactly how food gets to their table.
While getting my hands dirty each day on the farm, I learned an important factor when it comes to local and sustainable food production – community. Finding a place in the smaller PEAS community, and then the greater Missoula community was a feeling unlike any other.
It was eye-opening to see how necessary community is in making sustainability accessible. Each person working on the farm, and each person buying the produce understood how important it was to eat food locally. It changed my perspective on how achievable sustainability is, and I now understand with good education and effective outreach communities can be brought together to create real change.
At the beginning of the summer, I had no idea all that farming entailed. As the summer progressed, I was able to step into a leadership role with my fellow crew members, and community. I enjoyed being a leader on the farm by facilitating the creation of what we called “FARMily”. Bringing people together and creating a safe place was a role I was honored to have, and it became essential for producing nourishing food for others.
I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to spend a summer in Montana soil and gaining new perspectives on the Missoula community. With all the knowledge I now have surrounding natural resource and sustainability I am excited to take the next step and find ways to keep learning more while educating others.