The Sustainable Agriculture & Forestry Scholarship Endowment Fund

2020 Scholarship Recipient

James Miller of Northfield, MN

The following, excerpted from his scholarship application, clearly demonstrates why the panel selected James for the scholarship:

Here are excerpts from his application about his educational focus:

With undergraduate majors in both biology and geography, I approach sustainable agriculture from an interdisciplinary approach that emphasizes both scientific and social-scientific aspects

of environmental conservation. Understanding that conventional systems continue to deplete natural resource reserves and environmental quality, my coursework in biology and physical geography provides me with a deep understanding of agricultural ecosystems and the restorative effect that sustainable management techniques have on soil. Dual emphasis in human geography has helped me examine agriculture from an entirely different perspective, introducing social and political elements into my analysis. While conventional agriculture is inherently unsustainable for the environment, changing the system will require policy that enhances both environmental quality and the economic viability of farming, especially for small-scale producers. My interdisciplinary education equips me to serve as a change agent in the field, allowing me to help build environmentally resilient agricultural systems that work for all people.

From his Future Plans Essay:

I see myself working at the nexus of on-site natural resource management and agricultural policy, advocating for reform that increases the accessibility of sustainable agriculture to farmers. While support is required at all levels, I have a specific interest in working with small scale, rural producers who often lack the economic flexibility to transition to sustainable practices. Currently, the USDA states that 51% of the total value of agricultural production can be attributed to just 3.2% of US farms, indicating that the vast majority of farmers have significantly less power and economic stake in the industry. This stark division in the industry has an impact on my family, my neighbors, and other farmers struggling to stay afloat, and these personal connections motivate me to boost governmental incentivization for sustainable practices. It is time to prioritize rural farmers in policy discussions, and growing up with extended family members who operate a fourth generation corn, soybean, and hog farm has helped me understand the importance of economic accessibility in a transition to sustainable practices. Similar to other small-scale producers throughout the region experiencing heightened economic challenges, their central motive is to secure profit and remain competitive. While they do not wish to deplete the soil or impart chemicals into water systems, they must do so in order to maintain their livelihood. In light of these economic challenges, “doing the right thing” for the environment must become an attractive choice, not only because of its benefits in climate change mitigation but because of its competitive advantage. It is with this understanding of conventional food production systems and the rural farming experience that I enter a career in sustainable agriculture and environmental policy. With strong educational backing and an understanding of the rural farming experience, I believe I can serve as an effective advocate for change by approaching policy and decision making with people like my own relatives in mind.

Mr. Miller will be a senior at Gustavus Adolphus this fall.

James received $5,000.00 for the upcoming school year—thanks to our donors

The review panel of nine, managed by the Rochester Area Foundation, unanimously agreed that James has the qualities we are looking for in the Scholarship recipients:

     1.        Have a demonstrated strong interest in and commitment to completely sustainable (as pertains to economic, social and environmental issues—combined) agricultural and/or forestry practices.

     2.        Be committed to protecting and preserving our natural resources and related economic and social condition.

     3.        Have strong communication skills.

     4.        Possess leadership characteristics.

     5.        Priority will be given to students active in agriculture/forestry also outside of school.