Agro-ecology in practice: Farm Experience Internship 2015 – get enrolled!

By Elske Hageraats, Msc. Biology and Msc. Development and Rural Innovation, WUR.

There is a battle for ‘truth’ (Foucault, 1976) and this fight for independent research and education is still going strong: be inspired by the story of the FEI

FEI 2014 LuizaFor my internship I have organised the Farm Experience Internship (FEI) 2014. The FEI is a international summer course at the Wageningen University for students and non-students, intended to bring theoretical knowledge from the University with practical skills and knowledge from farmers. Wageningen University students can get 3 ects credits for their participation in the FEI. Above you can see one of the FEI 2014 participants, Luiza from Brazil, harvesting ‘rainbow carrots’ in the Netherlands. Are you also interested in growing your own food, discovering local knowledge and practices on organic farms in the Netherlands? Do you want to learn about permaculture, agro-ecology and sustainable food systems? Would you like to interact and discuss with farmers to find creative, innovative ways of farming? Then this course is what you’re looking for! Join as participant, as farmer or organise the course at your own university as your internship. Check our website, or send us a mail: farmexperienceinternship@gmail.com.

FEI programme Summer July 20 – August 14, 2015

Week 1:PREPARATION – Lectures, workshops, excursions, group work. During the first phase of the FEI, you will get to know about all kinds of topics related to agriculture, e.g. agro-ecology, permaculture, sustainable food systems, food sovereignty, seed patents etc. We cook together and eat together, organic and local food – sharing knowledge and have a good time. Week 2&3: LET’S GO FARMING! Practical experience on a Dutch farm. After the preparation week, each student is sent to a different farm somewhere in the Netherlands. (Before the start of the FEI, you can tell us your preference, e.g. food forest, goat farm, organic garden etc.) For two weeks you will be full time working together with the farmer, following his/her working rhythm, learning practical skills and local knowledge. In this way, theory is combined with practice, and students – the future researchers, teachers, policy makers – can experience the life of a farmer in reality and the challenges they are facing. But also the farmers are now able to find ways of contact with the university: they start to realise the possibilities to propose research questions where students can work on during their thesis or internship, they can address challenges where researchers can then work on. Week 4: EVALUATION. After two weeks harvesting, feeding cows, goats, or making cheese, students will come back together for the evaluation phase, share the stories, share challenges of their farmers, their dreams and hopes for a better future and ways to work towards it – together.

  • How to join the FEI 2015? Read all about the FEI on our website and how to join as a participant Summer 2015. For questions or enrolment for the course, you can send us a mail: farmexperienceinternship@gmail.com;
  • Do you want to assist organising the FEI in Summer 2015? You can arrange an internship at the Boerengroep or join the team of volunteers;
  • Agro-ecology. Read the whole story about agro-ecology and the (shocking!) history of the FEI in Brazil. Find documentaries and articles about the political side of food, food as a weapon, the Green Revolution and the control of the food chain by agri-business;
  • Inspiration. Here you can find links to movements, NGOs, foundations, opportunities to work on farms, gardens or eco villages. Also many documentaries/ articles/ videos about young farmers, permaculture and food production. Be inspired and enjoy!
  • Organising a FEI at your own university? At the FEI website you can download the FEI manual, which will help you to organise a FEI, how to turn it into your internship and find a lot of extra info for a great summer course;

The Agro-ecological revolution: how it all started

Agroecological revolution Brazil The concept of the FEI comes from Brazil. There, it has its roots in the agro-ecological social and political movements who were demanding food sovereignty, family farming, local markets, the right to land and healthy food in the 1960s –opposing the negative effects of the Green Revolution (pushed through after the USA ‘shock doctrine’ in 1964). Part of this movement took place on the university where students were demanding education that was focussed on sustainable food production and a stronger connection between the theory of the university and the needs of the farmers. In order to bridge this gap between the university and the needs of the farmers, the students decided to start a revolution at their university: they themselves created a new course, about feeding the world in what they consider to be a truly sustainable way of food production. The course was called Estagio Interdisciplinar de Vivencias (EIV) and it was set up for the first time at the university in 1989. In the late 1990s, this project developed partnership with NGOs and Movements, like the Landless Movement (MST), and it was adopted in Universities all over the country. In the spring of 2013 Heitor Mancini Texeira, a student from Brazil, took the idea of the EIV and introduced it at the Wageningen University under the name Farm Experience Internship (FEI). Again, students themselves created a new course about feeding the world with an agro-ecological approach, based on cooperation with farmers. Students brought together chairgroups from the University, NGOs, movements, foundations and sustainable companies as partners in this project. Farmers were contacted, keynote speakers were invited, excursions and workshops arranged, and in the summer of 2013 the first FEI started with an international group of 18 participants and 16 ecological farms. It became a success and since then the course is organised at the Wageningen University every Summer.

There were nice discussions with the input of the students who came with their theories. I like to show the CSA, because I am proud of it and I like to share this knowledge with people who have interest in CSA’s. Pieter Lammerts, Biologische zelfoogsttuin De Nieuwe Ronde It was a very nice experience, the student integrated very well in the farm, we had nice conversations and he followed well the working rhythms. It’s funny to notice: Heitor (student) comes from the other side of the world and still we have so many ideas in common. Unbelievable! Ravi van Marissing, De Raatakker The FEI it’s a good idea, very important for the students to learn with practice and connect it to their theory Angelien, Welmoet en Linde, De Stroom

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