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Program offers experiential learning on NYS farms

Cornell students will have an opportunity for hands-on learning about ecological approaches to agricultural systems through the new Lund Fellows Program for Regenerative Agriculture in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS).

Available to undergraduates across colleges and disciplines, the Lund Fellows Program will launch in summer 2021 with in-person internships that combine rigorous, scientifically based classroom knowledge with practical, applied skills on local farms throughout New York state.

Cornell impacting New York State

Thanks to a gift from Judith Lund Biggs ‘57, the Lund Fellows Program will enable students from all backgrounds to spend a summer immersed in a hands-on agricultural experience without worrying about paying for food, lodging or their student financial aid contribution.

Applications are now being accepted until April 21. The program hopes to select eight students in the first year.

Lund Fellows will spend eight weeks working on small-scale, agro-ecological, biodynamic and/or organic farms around Ithaca, the Hudson Valley and New York City. The intergenerational exchange of knowledge and life experiences between students, farmers and university faculty will raise awareness about the social and economic contexts inherent in diversified farming, while teaching the benefits of sustainable agricultural practices, said Rachel Bezner Kerr, faculty co-lead of the Lund Fellows Program and professor of global development.

Designed to help students contribute to the work of the farms and community partners in meaningful ways, the program is actively seeking the participation of students and farmers from diverse disciplines and backgrounds.

“We are very excited about the opportunity that this new program provides both to students and farms,” Bezner Kerr said. “Students often can’t afford to take unpaid internships but want to gain experience with regenerative, agro-ecological farming. Host farms will also receive support for the important mentoring and training role that they will provide.”

The Lund Fellows Program builds on more than a century of purpose-driven education and experiential learning in CALS. Biodynamic and organic agriculture systems are among the fastest-growing segments of the U.S. agricultural market; the Lund Fellows Program will train future leaders and spread awareness about biodynamic, organic, regenerative and sustainable approaches to farming.

“We were thrilled that the Biggs family had the vision to support this program, which we see as a model for training the next generation of farmers,” said Matthew Ryan, faculty co-lead and associate professor in the Soil and Crop Sciences Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science. “We were especially happy that the family recognized the importance of supporting Black, Indigenous and people of color farmers, who often go unrecognized.”

Lund Biggs graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences, majoring in American Studies and Government. A longtime volunteer and donor to Cornell, she is inspired by her daughter’s life experience in organic and biodynamic farming in New York and France.

Kelly Merchan is a communications specialist in the Department of Global Development.

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Lindsey Hadlock