Nutrition and horticulture department team up to make sustainable program

Cosumnes River College students will get the chance to do hands-on work in a live lab when a new nutrition certification program opens in fall 2017.

Plant-based Nutrition and Sustainable Agriculture is a rare certification program because of how broad it is.

Students will grow and prepare their own crops for consumption while learning the science behind food and how it affects their bodies.

“We see this as a full-circle,” said Nutrition and Foods, Allied Health Professor and program coordinator Dana Wassmer. “How we grow plants, how to prepare plants, and how to eat plants, that’s what we’re really after, to help teach students not only about health, but also about where their food comes from.”

The program consists of three classes: a plant-based nutrition course, a food preparation of plant-based foods course and a sustainable agriculture course.

“We’re hoping to show people what they can do in their own yards and also open up some career opportunities for new students who decide that they want to try that small urban production,” said Horticulture Professor Dave Andrews, who will teach the sustainable agriculture class. “It’s been quite lucrative as a business and career opportunity for students to do urban agriculture.”

Wassmer and Andrews said the driving force for establishing the program was high interest from the community, the drought and the farm-to-fork movement in Sacramento.

“It could be really beneficial for students. Especially in this day and age where people don’t really seem to eat healthy like that,” said 27-year-old sociology major Colette Goodenough. “I think it’s really nutritionally beneficial, but I think it goes beyond that. I think that when you learn how to actually grow something you can kinda take that with you, and if you have kids you can teach them that.”

Andrews said it’s very difficult to produce good quality organic food on a large scale. He wants students to learn that small, local and organic farms can yield better results and have less of an impact on the environment.

Students will help develop the half to three-quarter acre garden without the use of fertilizer. The goal is to make the garden organic, a process that takes three years.

“There’s a lot of success with some of these people who have done just that,” Wassmer said. “So now we want to be able to formalize it and provide some real education behind it. I think that’s what’s missing in so many people’s educational process. It’s like, they theorize it, but then they don’t get to actually see it and do it. We’re trying to capture that.”

Once the certification program is established, Wassmer and Andrews plan on expanding multiple aspects of nutrition and sustainable agriculture with an outdoor demonstration kitchen, retail nursery space and large-scale composting.

“It’s going to be more like backyard orchard culture and backyard gardening, organically,” Andrews said. “So students can realistically harvest the food, walk a hundred feet over, wash it, prepare it and cook it right there.”

The plant-based nutrition certification program is on CRC’s 2016-2017 course catalog.

Though the program officially opens fall 2017, Wassmer hopes to have a soft opening in spring 2017.