In February, GEP Professor Garrett Graddy-Lovelace and students Michael Bard, Kat Diersen and Leah Germer presented at the annual Dimensions of Political Ecology Conference at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. The interdisciplinary, student-led conference brings together scholars from fields as diverse as economics, political geography, rural sociology, sociocultural anthropology, and science and technology studies around a host of contemporary environmental issues. The conference agenda included sessions on a diverse range of topics including environmental justice, urban design, and building identity through food consumption. Professor Graddy-Lovelace facilitated a lively panel discussion on labor and the agrarian question, and the conference wrapped up with a stirring keynote address by Kim Tallbear, professor of anthropology and Native American & Indigenous Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.
The students presented preliminary findings from their work on a funding gap analysis of the Farm Bill’s Title II Conservation Programs. The gap analysis will contribute to the 2015 Food/Farm Bill Practicum, a capstone project that draws on GEP’s developing partnership with national grassroots farming organizations Rural Coalition and National Family Farm Coalition. Michael presented exploratory research and a critique of USDA strategies for achieving social and ecological resilience under the climate action plan and federal agency adaptation planning process. Kat and Leah presented a preliminary analysis of USDA data on rates of enrollment in conservation programs under the Farm Bill by producers from historically underserved and low-income demographic groups. Focusing on USDA programs for seasonal high tunnels, the students included preliminary results of interviews with Appalachian farmers (pictured below) and community leaders about their experiences obtaining funding through these programs. The students took advantage of the open and collaborative atmosphere of the DoPE conference to make connections with local community food advocates, such as leaders of the Kentucky Community Farm Alliance and Grow Appalachia, in order to continue this research throughout the Spring semester. To follow their progress, please visit the Practicum website, farmbillfairness.org.