Back to top

Meara Swinson

Project Title: 
Developing Equitably Accessible Educational Resources
Program Year: 
Farms and Food Systems

My name is Meara, I am a Greenfield Community College student working on completing my associate's degree in Farms and Food Systems, after which I will be transferring to the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at UMass Amherst for a bachelor's in Sustainable Food and Farming, I grew up and lived in Middlesex county, running a dog walking business that I started when I was 20 for 8 years.

In 2021, I moved across the state intending to switch trajectories and become a vet tech; I failed miserably so I enrolled in college, majoring in Environmental Science. At some point, something clicked in me and I realized I want to own a nonprofit farm that doubles as a center for community wellness, offering free to low-income CSA shares, in addition to accessible educational workshops for cooking, gardening, and foraging. Not long after that, I discovered permaculture and found myself enraptured by concepts like food forests, the elaborate, innovative systems people develop to harness natural resources and conserve energy, and the intrinsic association with social and ecological justice, and I knew right away that this is a movement I want to be a part of.

Having very little experience in or knowledge of food production, the opportunities and education I've had access to through REEU have been invaluable for my career trajectory; despite only being able to join the team for the third session, the experience has been so enriching and enjoyable in such a short period of time. I feel very fortunate to spend time learning not only from farmers all over New England and the agricultural science professors here at the Stockbridge School, but also from the program coordinators and other interns, whose skills, intellect, and drive are truly inspiring to me. I'm looking forward to transferring to UMass and furthering my connections with professors and fellow agriculture students alike.

These experiences helped me understand that working in the community matters to me, motivates me, and has allowed me to explore my innate love for nature and gardening. In the fall of 2022, 1 enrolled in the University of Massachusetts Amherst's Sustainable Food and Farming Associates degree program. Throughout the last year, I have learned many important skills and key knowledge of soil health, botany, community-supported agriculture, farm management, and extension all from an academic view.

The Research and Extension Experience for Undergraduates this summer has changed my view on the relationship between research and farming, through extension. I know now the importance of community outreach to farmers in order to understand real-world problems that need to be addressed by researchers. This internship has also given me the opportunity to connect with my academic peers who are involved in similar research and areas of study at the university.

As I enter my senior year I realize how my upbringing in Amherst being surrounded by farms and communities involved in food, has influenced my decision to pursue a "career" and more so a life, in agriculture.