SAEA History

A brief look back in time takes us to 2002, when a group called the College Farms Sustainable Agriculture Educators Working Group, with the support of the Kellogg-funded California Food and Fiber Futures (CF3) project, started working on a number of projects and holding workshops at the annual Ecological Farming Conferences in California.

The idea of a multi-day event that served the broader sustainable agriculture education community was proposed at the 2005 meeting. Surveys conducted at US institutions revealed the enthusiasm and support for a national sustainable agriculture education conference to serve the further development of experiential sustainable agriculture education and college farms.

The confidence and effort of these group resulted in the first annual conference, a successful 100% interactive conference held in January 2006 in Pacific Grove, California. Attendance exceeded 140 people, including students, faculty, staff and administrators from over 50 colleges and universities, and 15 statewide and national sustainable agriculture organizations.

Based on post-conference evaluations, the 2006 conference was a great success, exceeding expectations in both attendance and active participation. One of the main outcomes was the launching of a professional association for the advancement of sustainable agriculturand agroecology in education.

To start, an Implementation Sub-Committee (ISC) was formed to examine the viability of, and, as appropriate, establish, such an organization. The ISC voted to form the Sustainable Agriculture Education Association (SAEA) and from that moment on, members worked to initiate and organize both the administrative elements of SAEA and the 2007 SAEA conference. Hence, the launching of a professional association for the advancement of sustainable agriculture and agroecology in education, the Sustainable Agriculture Education Association, was the direct, concrete outcome of that 2006 first annual conference.

The next key step was the 2007 SAEA conference in Ithaca, NY with the support of Cornell University, the Pennsylvania State University and the Rodale Institute. The conference brought more than 200 participants to share their experiences in teaching and to exchange ideas on the future of sustainable agriculture education.

A key outcome was a structural organization for SAEA and the delegation of responsibilities to volunteers and specific committees. The commitment to forming the organization was solidified and the ball was rolling. The efforts of the committees and leadership of the temporary steering committee was central to the approval of the bylaws and to obtaining official 501(c)(3) status. From here on, we invite you to continue making this a reality by joining this adventure as a member, volunteer, and participant of the next conference.

Maria Oria