Empowering Communities, Empowering Ourselves
— Morgan Boyd, MPP ‘16
I am a second year Master of Public Policy student focusing on veteran underemployment.
I am also the owner/operator of Pepper Creek Family Farms, a 15-acre sustainable farm in Arroyo Grande, Calif. Additionally, I am working with Cal Poly to establish a beginning farmer training program designed to train military veterans and local, socially disadvantaged farm laborers in sustainable farming.
Since my retirement from the Army, I have turned my efforts toward veteran advocacy and sustainable agriculture production. I am an active member of the Farmer Veteran Coalition and the first farmer on the Central Coast to be Homegrown by Heroes certified. My passion for both sustainable farming and veteran advocacy shaped my focus in agricultural programs that support veterans transitioning into agriculture, which led to Cal Poly’s Farmers Experiential Education and Development (FEED) Program.
The FEED Program is an agricultural training program developed to educate and prepare individuals who aspire to be farmers. The FEED Program’s mission is to develop a new generation of farmers to feed the world and support their local communities. By applying Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing educational model, the overall goal of FEED is to increase the number of beginning farmers across the U.S. by preparing military veterans and socially disadvantaged farm laborers to successfully own and/or operate new farms. The program is a 12-week, non-credit certificate program designed to immerse students in a hands-on learning experience that will provide them with the knowledge, skills and tools required to become successful farmers, while also providing a supportive environment to ensure their overall success in the agricultural industry. To ensure that the students are fully prepared, FEED will focus on four traditional agricultural practices with a strong emphasis on agricultural sustainability: (1) small farm business management, (2) hydroponic and greenhouse production, (3) traditional row crop production, and (4) orchard production. Finally, the program is specifically designed to provide postgraduate mentorship throughout the first year of the beginning farmer’s career, which will create a foundation for long-term business sustainability.
We are preparing to launch the first course in March 2017. Since the program’s infancy, Professor Elizabeth Lowham has been an ardent supporter of my development of the FEED program. In addition to supporting my early efforts, Lowham connected me with the appropriate people and aided in collaborative efforts to ensure that I was taking the appropriate steps to reach out to the right individuals on campus. In addition, everyone involved in the MPP program has been extremely supportive of the project and offered advice on how to ensure that the program is met with success. Furthermore, my MPP education has enabled me to collaborate with various stakeholders and to understand the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s policies surrounding farmer-training programs.