Sustainable Agriculture

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Sustainable International Agriculture Opening Ceremony in Witzenhausen

Cherry blossoms are in full bloom here in the middle of Germany just in time for the big celebration. This Friday the official Sustainable International Agriculture Masters Program Opening Ceremony by the Ministers of Research of Hessen (for Witzenhausen) and Niedersachsen (for Göttingen) will take place here in Witzenhausen. All are all invited. Presentations will be given by the presidents of the two universities as well as a few SIA students. Strong media presence is expected.

All SIA students have prepared posters for presentation during the ceremony and the catered event to follow. Below is the poster that we are working on for Community Shared Agriculture in North America.


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Sustainable Packaging

We are all back in snow covered Witzenhausen uni-bio.de and classes are in full swing with all the red cheeked students and a din of inspired conversation. In these first couple of weeks of 2010 we have had a visit from the Vermont Bread and Puppet troop for a puppet making workshop and a theater. We have had visitors from the College of the Atlantic for discussions about the vision for the Trans Atlantic Partnership and opportunities for students to do research and take classes at College of the Atlantic. The Organic Research Center and here in Witzenhausen with Kassel, Göttingen and Fulda.

Dr. Angelica Ploeger’s Sustainable Nutrition class is now concentrating on Life Cycle Assessment. We heard a comparative life cycle analysis of organic and conventional dairy farms from three colleagues and from Phd Candidate Mehrnaz Aminforoughi about on sustainability in milk packaging. The really intriguing thing about all this was the proposed ecological solution from a Norwegian study. According to the authors the best possible packaging solution, after a full life cycle analysis from production to disposal, is plastic bags. The plastic bags get used once and then burned. According to the research this uses much less electricity, requires less diesel in shipping and creates less overall GHG emissions.

This class leaves us all with a lot of unanswered questions and a lot of follow up research to do. What do we make of this if it is true? How much of a role does consumer awareness play in the food industry? Are we all so fed up with scientific analysis that we have stopped paying attention? Should we start buying things in plastic bags instead of in glass bottles?

Some helpful resources:

Science Direct, IFEU, Enviro Pac


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SIA Schedule in Witzenhausen

80px-Wappen_WitzenhausenWitzenhausen is a small town with a satellite campus for the study of Agriculture and has been a center of agricultural studies for a very long time now. The focus on organic agriculture started in the 80’s and has had a major impact on the whole community of Witzenhausen. The classes here have traditionally been coordinated and accredited through the Universität Kassel. Recent changes to the location of the administration of the SIA program have created some confusion. Although the Organic Agriculture Sciences Faculty here in Witzenhausen is a satellite of Universität Kassel SIA Masters candidates are officially students of the George-August Universität in Göttingen. Their Sustainable International Agriculture Masters Program page is the place to look for information.

The Schedule:

Courses officially start on October 12th and go until December 21 then a break till January 8th and back to classes for an indeterminate amount of time. The Universities have not yet worked out what the timing should be so it all depends on the class choice. Read about the Official Holidays in Germany and more about what those mean from Living in Germany.

I encourage all interested people to cruise around the http://www.unibio.de website and see what people are up to. Most of that is in German so plug in your babel-fish and work it out – you’ll also find a lot of information in English there and through the Witzenhausen Group on the Couchsurfing organization website.

imagesThere is a Conference titled: “Regulation of soil organic matter and nutrient turnover in agriculture”  happening on November 12thto 13th, 2009 in Witzenhausen. Download the program: www.dbges.de/wb/media/workshop_witzenhausen.pdf

There is a joint training hosted by DITSL (Deutsches Institut für Tropische und Subtropische Landwirtschaft GmbH) and FiBL (Das Forschungsinstitut für biologischen Landbau) “Quality management and certification – international training programme” from March 16th April 3rd in Witzenhausen in 2010.

Finally there is a little traffic on Qype about Witzenhausen: http://www.qype.co.uk/de737-witzenhausen


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First Week of Studies

Es Regnet (It Rains)

Es Regnet (It Rains)

Hello from a very cold day in the center of Germany. The weather here has been unseasonably cold with a fresh breeze, thick white frost in the mornings and rain in the afternoons. This weather keeps us happily in our warm classrooms and safely away from the distractions of forests and farmland surrounding Witzenhausen and Göttingen.

The first week here in the new Sustainable International Agriculture program was spent half in Göttingen and half in Witzenhausen.

The SIA degree is split in to three major study areas:

Our colorful group of 35 graduate students representing 15 countries (Kenya, Ghana, US, UK, Germany, Turkey, France, South Korea, Japan, China, India, Argentina…) met on Monday in a large classroom where the Göttingen ‘Studienberatung’ Coordinator introduced our group to the weeks work.

We split up for the first half of the week for intensive bridging courses in statistics, plant sciences, soil sciences, ‘Intercultural Communication’ and other introductions to the various Göttingen systems. Millions of forms had to be filled out to establish our status as students.

Finally most of us went to the ‘Global Thinking Local Responsibility‘ conference here in Witzenhausen which I believe they are planning to have again next year as part of the intro to SIA students.

The week ended with a long potluck dinner and then dancing all night at ‘The Club’ on the Witzenhasen Campus.

There is a general mixed feeling of tiredness, excitement for getting to know each-other and the program and preparedness for the work ahead for all of us.

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