Monday, April 14, 2014

Future Farmers Weigh In: Derek Silva

Derek Silva 

VL: Where are you from Derek Silva?
DS: A portuguese community in Lowell, Massachusetts

VL: What year are you?
DS: I’m finishing up my third year and I’ll be graduating in one semester.

VL: What is your major and area of interest?
DS: Plant, Soil and Insect Sciences with a concentration in Sustainable Food and Farming.  My interest is in aquaculture, which is an often forgotten aspect of agriculture that that has only been growing bigger and bigger in recent years.  I also have an interest of one day working in the tropics in developing countries.

VL: What got you interested in agriculture?
DS: Farming is a big part of my family’s past and I spent a lot of time on farms as a child.  The idea of growing my own food and raising my own animals just stuck with me.

VL: What are your thoughts studying agriculture in western mass?
DS: I think western mass is a great place to study agriculture because it’s such a big part of the daily life here and the atmosphere is very supportive of it.

VL: What are your thoughts on GMOs?
DS: From my experience, when people hear GMO they have very strong feelings either for or against.  There doesn’t seem to be much of a middle ground where people can calmly and rationally discuss GMOs.  With that being said, the thought of eating foods that have been genetically modified seems wrong to me and I haven’t read any studies that conclusively show GMOs to be the solution we need.  However, I try to stay open-minded and maybe some day, after significant study, we’ll see that GMOs aren’t all that bad.

VL: How can a farmer make a difference in today’s world of big agriculture?
DS: I think a farmer is making a difference as soon as they decide to be a farmer.  Even just a backyard farmer can have a huge impact on family, neighbors and their community.  I think the perfect phrase to describe farming in this country is out of sight, out of mind.  It’s been forgotten and by becoming a farmer, you’re bringing it back to people’s attention.

VL: What does having a chapter of the National Agriculture Honor Society mean to you and to the school?
It’s very rewarding.  The people at UMass who study agriculture already know that Stockbridge, its professors and its students are all great people.  To me having a chapter of the National Agriculture Honor Society is a recognition that we’re doing something right and it serves as encouragement to keep working.

VL: What do you recommend to students who are interested in going into agriculture?
DS: Do it.  I think the best way to learn in agriculture is to just get out there and not be afraid to mess up.  Plant some vegetables, visit farms, talk to farmers, do whatever you can.  If you show people that you’re really interested I think you’ll find there are a lot of people out there who will support you.

VL: What did you have for breakfast?
A bowl of oatmeal with strawberries and a cup of fair trade coffee.