Sandy Rikoon has a lot on his proverbial plate. His work is hard to pigeonhole, except to say that, in general, it’s grounded in concern over both people and the environment. Since his academic discipline in rural sociology lives “at the intersection of basic and applied research,” it is the pursuit of “seamless connections” between his research, teaching, and outreach activities that drives Rikoon’s work.
José Garcia puts on and takes off many hats during the average week, owing to the extension, teaching, and research dimensions of his work as Extension Assistant Professor in Rural Sociology. For instance, as Coordinator of the Community Food Systems and Sustainable Agriculture Program at MU (CFSSA), Garcia spends most of his time doing outreach with rural communities throughout the state. A common misunderstanding some people have about the term “sustainable agriculture” is that it rejects technology, harkening back to an earlier time when people worked mainly with their hands. Quite the contrary, Garcia clarifies: sustainable agriculture uses the most recent technology in its approach to farming (and to food itself), in which economic viability and environmental impact, along with social responsibility, are at the center of every decision. In relation to this last dimension, approaches to sustainable agriculture ask such questions as the following: “How socially responsible are farmers? What is the impact of their operations on communities, families, and workers? And how connected to the community are they? ” Garcia explains the complexity of the situation: “All of those kinds of things need to be taken into consideration when making decisions because food and agriculture are totally connected to people, to communities, and to laborers.” Thus Garcia provides information and training to people about various aspects of agriculture – whether that involves farms, factories, schools, or other community organizations. He hopes to see a ripple effect, with the information he gives to various community educators in Missouri being spread throughout the state.
Increasingly, says Rikoon, what drives his work is the pursuit of “a seamless connection” among the activities of research, teaching, and extension. While his research and teaching clearly inform each other, Rikoon explains that outreach has become a larger part of that mix.
Folklorist, sociologist, and environmentalist, Sandy Rikoon runs the environmental sociology program in the Department of Rural Sociology, where he teaches graduate courses in environmental sociology, advises students, and does research in the area of environmental sociology.
Beyond the Latino farmers and workers, Garcia does similar workshops and presentations for extension people working with Hmong and other immigrant farmers in Missouri. Part of his work involves bridging existing services, and facilitating partnerships and connections. “It has to be collaborative,” he says, “I’d kill myself if I tried to everything on my own. Success relies heavily on those collaborations.”
Garcia and his colleagues across the state rely on “virtual meetings” over the Internet with extension agriculturalists to touch base about certain issues related to sustainable agriculture.
Most of Jose Garcia’s work involves doing outreach and teaching about sustainable agriculture to various groups of people, from farmers in rural Missouri communities to students, faculty, and staff at MU. There are three dimensions emphasized by use of the term “sustainable agriculture” explains Garcia. “Because food and agriculture are totally connected to people and to communities and to laborers,” sustainable agriculture refers to an approach to farming and food, in which economic viability, environmental impact, and social responsibility are considered in any decision.