Animal Rights: Farms, Food Systems, & Impacts on Wildlife
Journals & Interview Documents from Field Days:
- May 3rd & 8th: Michaela Ryan at New Village Farm
- May 10th: VT Youth Conservation Corps
- May 11th: Jackie Kho from UVM CREAM
- May 22nd: Nick Staats from US Fish and Wildlife
- May 24th: Alison Thomas from Dead Creek Visitors Center & Elizabeth Lee & Chris Jarrett from Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
- May 29th: Margaret Fowle from Audubon Vermont
- May 31st: Dave Frisque at Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge
SERVICE LEARNING TERM 2018 NARRATIVE
Goal of SLT: Learning through service, collaborating with community partners, and field research, to develop a deeper understanding of the topic and help towards a positive change.
This Spring I was part of the Animal Rights SLT Group. Our focus was to explore the impacts we, as humans, have on animals. This encompassed both the wildlife that shares our environment as well as the livestock kept on farms in our area. To do this, we worked with several community partners, including Michaela Ryan from New Village Farm, the farmers from the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps farm, a student from UVM CREAM, several wildlife biologists from various VT state government run wildlife refuges and related projects around the state, and Margaret Fowle from the Audubon Society. We were able to help with some of the projects they had going on, as well as simply learning more about the way humans are currently working to remedy some of the damage done to our environment by humans in the past.
Our learning objectives were simply to gain more information about the systems in place, both natural and human-made, that affect the lives of animals in our immediate environment. This panned out into learning about the issues with sustainability for many farms in Vermont and the rest of the country, the struggles farmers face when choosing between ethics and ability to keep their business afloat, the credibility of labels found on food at grocery stores, and the many ways humans impact wildlife positively and negatively. Throughout the term, we expanded on many topics I had background knowledge in, contributing to a well rounded perspective on ecosystem functions as well as their connections to human activity. For example, we looked into the evolution of fish passage through history. We also explored the economic differences between a small scale, family owned, biodynamic farming and livestock raising operation and a larger scale commercial dairy farm. In addition to travelling to multiple farms, wildlife refuges, and project sites, we did significant background research. Through this, I learned about food labels not only relating to local agriculture, but also for farmed and wild caught seafood.
The culture of this group was largely positive, although difficult to work with at times. Since it was such a broad topic, it seemed like people had trouble following the connections between each aspect. This contributed to some dead space during work. It seemed like people were not sure how to proceed. Our meetings with community partners could also have been better organised in terms of timing. Interesting information was exchanged, but sometimes it was in the form of being talked at for a significant period of time. Although this was not an issue for me, as this topic dealt with some of my main interest areas, I noticed some of my classmates seeming increasingly less interested. However, once we were assigned a task we were able to come together and get a lot of work done quickly. I noticed this when fertilising the garlic beds at VYCC, completing various jobs for Michaela at New Village Farm, and asking questions from Margaret Fowle.
In the future, I think SLT projects could be organised better overall. Last year, the vulnerable pollinators project seemed like a big success since our idea did not have so many legs. We got to focus deeply on one thing, and created a final product that clearly reflected our newfound knowledge on the topic. Although I learned a fair bit this year, the knowledge was spread and more or less surface level, because we were trying to focus on so many things at once. I think narrowing the topic to begin with is quite valuable. However, the experiences we had this year with our community partners were interesting and engaging in their variety.