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Symposium Success

There were a few moments last Friday afternoon when I stopped racing around the Dana building, stood on the outskirts of the bustling Commons and, checking out the hubbub, was overcome with emotion. A plethora of volunteers ran the registration table, sold T-shirts, and monitored compost bins. Students clustered to sign-in and get their nametags, to fill tiny envelopes with kale seeds, or to get some freshly brewed, locally roasted coffee from Roo’s Roast. There was activity and enthusiasm everywhere I looked. People were talking to each other, meeting new people, and learning new things everywhere I turned. And the subject of every conversation was food: good, sustainable, fresh, healthy, and equitable food.  That emotion I was filled with was excitement - and a warm, comforting feeling that felt like success.

What event was this? It was the second annual Sustainable Food Careers Symposium, put on by CAFE (the Consortium on Agriculture, Food, and the Environment), a group I’ve had the pleasure of leading this school year. From 9 am to 4 pm, we filled the Dana building with sustainable food professionals and enthusiasts. Our goal was to connect undergraduate and graduate students with professionals and academics in the world of sustainable food and to hold powerful, relevant conversations on current events and issues and career opportunities for newcomers in this field.

In order to accomplish these goals, we held four panel discussions over the course of the day, as well as providing lunch and then desserts over opportunities to network with similarly interested folk. The panel topics were ‘Community and Education,’ ‘Entrepreneurship and the Private Sector,’ ‘Food Justice,’ and ‘Sustainable Food Production.’ You can check out the full program here to find out all about the panelists and moderators for each panel.

A couple of takeaway tips from the Symposium? Try lots of different jobs and start conversations with everyone possible. (You never know what’s going to click.) Remember that a job shouldn’t just be about its mission – you have to like the job itself, and your daily routine, if you’re ever going to make a real difference in the world. And if you want sustainable, local food to come out on top – vote for it with your wallet whenever you’re able. Learn to cook with real, seasonal produce. Spread the farmers market love.

A lot of great information came out of the Symposium. Students learned about job opportunities and programs happening all across Michigan and the nation, through our diverse set of panelists. For me, though, the real feeling of success came from seeing the spontaneous conversations that sprang up among the 100+ participants. It was clear that a lot of people deeply care about these issues, and that made me not only proud of creating an event for all of them to come together, but also optimistic about a future in which all of these people will be entering the workforce.


Sustainable Food Program | University of Michigan
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