Continuing My Education: Zeroing in on Sustainable, Local Food

My cold-resilient kale sitting in my repurposed bookshelf-turned-raised bed in the snow.

I’m ringing in the new year by registering for my first course in the Sustainable Local Food Certificate Program offered at Seneca College!

I’ve taken independent courses in continuing education programs before; let me tell you why this one’s so exciting to me.

Like many 19/20 year olds who face the pressure of picking a career and, ultimately, what they want the rest of their lives to look like at the tender age of, well, 19 or 20, I changed gears twice.

Now I have a clearer vision of where I want to be, and enrolling in the Sustainable Local Food Certificate Program marks my outlining in ink what I previously drafted in pencil.

Initially, I planned to attend teacher’s college after I obtained an Honours Bachelor of Arts from U of T. I had experience as a tutor and as a volunteer mentor at a boys and girls club in high school, and was convinced teaching ran in the family blood (both my mom and sister are teachers). Halfway through my undergraduate years, I became immersed in editing, writing, and editing some more in the Professional Writing and Communications program. I planned to pursue publishing and attend Ryerson University’s CE program for publishing instead.

My decisions felt natural and logical and were primarily shaped by my circumstances: I was already standing on a path before it clicked that I should take it.

Discouraged by the volatility of the job market, especially in an industry that has heard the bell tolling for its “inevitable” death for years, and encouraged by my newly discovered love and talent in marketing and communications made me reconsider.

I was hired as a social media marketer because Michael, president of the web startup where I first got into marketing, liked that I was a writer. I exceeded his expectations: not only was I managing a professional brand’s social media presence, I developed a communications strategy covering all digital assets of the company. I also drafted the information architecture for the website redesign I mentioned to Michael on our first phone interview, a project which I then led. More and more responsibilities came my way, and I embraced them.

A stroke of good luck: I was hired to be a writer on social media, I discovered I have more to offer and I enjoy the variety of work for which I was responsible.

Goodbye, dreams of becoming a Random House Canada editor. Hello, aspirations of becoming a communications coordinator.

I’ve always been a storyteller. I know whatever circumstantial changes I encounter, storytelling is my core strength. But it can’t stand alone.

Part-time continuing education programs have been essential to my continued learning because I’ve expanded my skills without a full-time commitment to school.

I dipped my toes in Business at Humber College. My final mark in Introduction to Business was 90+. If you understand how business works, you carry an understanding of the operations of any company you go into, whatever your role may be.

Employers were looking for communications all-rounders who knew Adobe Creative Suite (the standard software for professionals). I was already familiar with Photoshop and InDesign, so I enrolled in OCAD University’s Introduction to Illustrator. This was a necessary step for someone hoping to create marketing collateral for companies.

My interest in learning French and web design are also out of necessity.

What’s so special about Sustainable Local Food? It’s not necessary. It’s tangential to my current environmental-focused work.

I’m taking this program purely out of interest in how environmental sustainability and social justice come together in food.

I am vocal about owning a farm someday, a farm that will be a model of environmental sustainability and community development. This certificate program is where I start.

If I ever go back to school full-time, it would be to pursue a Master’s degree in U of T’s Master of Science in Sustainability Management or a similar program. I’m not 100% certain I will take the program, because I feel intimidated and don’t know that going back to school full-time is the right move for me. Also, many have advised me against enrolling in a Master’s degree until after I’ve gained enough experience to hone in on a specific interest I’m passionate about.

I think food justice is that one thing I’m passionate about that I would love to research, write my thesis on, and defend if I return to school for a post-graduate degree. I think food justice is that one thing I’m passionate about that I would want to champion using the skills I’ve been developing all these years.

This particular continuing education program allows me to specialize in a subject of my interest.

Whether I complete this program or not, or pursue a Master’s degree building off of this program are not the important take-aways from this. I’m excited to feel like I’ve chosen, as an autonomous adult with complete sovereignty over my brain and my heart, what bricks to lay and where to put them so I can create my own path.

 

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