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CEO Successful Fellow

NZ Landcare Trust Media Release - 20-11-14

CEO Successful Fellow

NZ Landcare Trust CEO Dr. Nick Edgar has been awarded a Churchill Fellowship by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.

Dr Edgar's Churchill Fellowship will involve examining local food system initiatives in Connecticut and Vermont, USA, that are creating economic and environmental improvement opportunities for farmers, producers and consumers.

In June 2013 Dr Edgar participated in a knowledge exchange workshop between land and water professionals from New Zealand and Vermont that was funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The workshop was focused on managing agricultural non-point source pollution, in particular, comparing the different policy, research and farm-based approaches being implemented between New Zealand and Vermont. Vermont was chosen for a comparison with New Zealand due to similarities in that State's reliance on both agriculture and tourism to support its economy. A situation closely mirrored in New Zealand.

At the workshop Dr Edgar became aware of a large number of initiatives to support the sustainable and local production of agricultural products by Vermont farmers for local consumers. Vermont is considered to be one of the leading States in the US in the development and implementation of initiatives centred on local food to local markets. Vermont has a very rich culture and set of complex initiatives that sit under the umbrella of the local food movement. For example, farmers markets, the sourcing of local produce to food retailers and restaurants (the Fresh Market Network in Burlington), farms to schools, and farms to institutions programmes.

"I was amazed by the scale and complexity of the local food movement in Vermont", said Dr Edgar. "And its not just Vermont, there were similar initiatives across the New England states. Connecticut and Maine are also leading the way in terms of this innovation. I could see the potential to apply some of these approaches in New Zealand. There are clearly opportunities to examine the motivations of both producers and consumers for engaging in these initiatives. In particular, quantifying economic costs and benefits of engaging in local food value chains and whether the way local-sourced produce is grown actually enhances environmental stewardship beyond conventional food and farming systems" Dr Edgar explained.

When Dr Edgar returned from the 2013 workshop he decided to make an application to the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust to undertake a further study tour to examine these local food systems initiatives in Vermont and Connecticut in more detail. "I feel very humbled to have been made a Churchill Fellow, especially as this is the second time I have been awarded this honour. In 1997 I received a Churchill Fellowship to study large lake management in the US, Canada and the UK. That experience was amazing, and really helped to further my career as a freshwater scientist at that time. To be offered another opportunity to participate in a learning exchange feels very special" said Dr Edgar.

Dr Edgar will undertake his Churchill Fellowship between July and September 2015. Exploring potential was of applying New England local food systems initiatives in New Zealand will be a key outcome of the study programme.

The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust was established in 1965 with funds from both the government and the public. Sir Winston Churchill believed that world peace and greater international understanding could be promoted through ordinary people travelling to other countries and experiencing other cultures. In his honour, the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust assists New Zealanders to travel overseas to learn more about other people and cultures and to investigate topics that will help them to increase their contribution to the community and their trade, industry, profession, business or calling.

END

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