Food Studies Program

In the Spotlight: Food Studies Professor Jamie Picardy

A Delicate Dance: Involvement at Every Level

Jamie Picardy

How did you get interested in food studies?
I grew up surrounded by diverse, small- to mid-scale agriculture in western Michigan. Starting in the mid-90s, I noticed a loss of production (farms and farm stands); the farms were being converted to suburban development and strip retail. I wanted to do something to contribute to keeping our working lands… working.

Why do you think food studies are important?
Food is life! Besides food as a basic necessity, food (production and consumption) forms the foundation for many of our cultural traditions. Also, food production and processing is a major global economic driver and user of finite natural resources, such as clean water and productive soil. Thus, since we all eat, we all have a stake in the sustainability of this social, economic, and ecological enterprise.

How did your career path lead you to this field?
I began studying agricultural engineering and geography at Michigan State University (a land-grant institution). After working on several farms, ranging from commodity pork to biodynamic CSA, my husband, Will, and I moved to the east coast. I had a wonderful opportunity to work for the Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation, a state-wide non-profit organization, where I developed agricultural curriculum for K-12 and community groups. After Maryland, we moved to Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, where I developed 2 undergraduate degree programs in geography at the Community College of Philadelphia and Mount Ida College. 

What excites you about USM’s new Food Studies Program?
The endless possibilities and terrific support from inside and outside of USM! I am excited to be making direct connections with various community stakeholders, thus designing FSP curriculum and paid internships that integrate their needs while focusing on applicable career skills.

What advice do you have for students who want to work in food-related fields?
I suggest that students try to interact with as many players across the conventional and alternative food systems – whether that is working, volunteering or visiting different types of farms, food processors, aggregators, distributers, food retailers, restaurants, and composters.

What’s a fun fact about you?
Here are two tidbits. I love to dance and, when the weather is nice, I drive our 1946 Chevy truck named Gus.

What issues are you excited about teaching in your classes?
I am excited to work with our FSP students to analyze current issues identified by our community stakeholders. For instance, this year in Food and Environment (FSP 210), we are working with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) to understand college students' knowledge and buying habits of seafood. Based on GMRI needs, FSP 210 students designed survey questions, collected and analyzed data from more than 200 participants. What an amazing undergraduate hands-on, practical research project that will benefit GMRI and our regional seafood industry! Other issues that I will use for creating class projects include: food insecurity and resources for every Maine county; non-food federal and state policies that impact our food system; and best practices for scaling up food businesses.

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