GreenSeam Futures is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to be the gateway to Southern Minnesota for resources to educate, launch and grow tomorrow’s ag and food leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs. GreenSeam Futures’ primary focus is fostering creative, meaningful collaborations between the agricultural community and educational institutions of Southern Minnesota, for the benefit of local students and the community at large. Specifically, GreenSeam Futures will work hand-in-hand with the “Educational Institution Partners” as described in its Bylaws. The initial Educational Institution Partners are Minnesota State University—Mankato and South Central College.
GreenSeam Futures’ planned programs and services are divided into four categories: (1) work-based learning support; (2) public-benefit research; (3) classroom-business partner projects; and (4) the GreenSeam Gateway.
Work-Based Learning Support.
GreenSeam Futures is an advocate of experiential learning and believes students across many disciplines can gain valuable experience through internships, apprenticeships, and other structured, work-based learning opportunities with local agribusinesses. One primary goal of GreenSeam Futures’ work-based learning support program will be to connect students in majors that are not traditionally thought of as related to agriculture to the wide range of career opportunities available in modern food and agribusinesses.
While GreenSeam Futures plans to help students connect with internships and other work-based learning opportunities with local businesses through conventional methods, we want to add value to these experiences with special programs tailored to help students get the most out of their internships and other programs. GreenSeam Futures intends to host a leadership program for student-interns at area agribusinesses to interact with one another and with community leaders.
GreenSeam Futures also plans to make grants to its Educational Institution Partners for scholarships to student-interns. In order for a student to receive credit towards their degree for an internship, the student must pay tuition for their work experience. GreenSeam Futures also believes that for-credit internships, supervised by an educator and incorporated into a student’s overall education plan, provide the most benefit to students long-term. These scholarships would make quality internships related to the student’s area of study and career goals more attainable for many students.
Public Benefit Research.
GreenSeam Futures is exploring opportunities to fund research led by the staff at our Educational Institution Partners on pressing issues affecting agricultural communities and making the results of that research publicly available. Particular areas of interest include: the uses and impacts of rural broadband connectivity, strategies to reduce the negative impact of newer invasive species and plant diseases, supply chain disruptions, and economic impacts on specific sectors of agriculture, potentially including an annual “State of Agriculture” regional report.
GreenSeam Futures is based on the principle that learning is most impactful when students can see how lessons in the classroom apply in the real world. Through this program, GreenSeam Futures will help local agribusinesses formulate research proposals and integrate those projects into the curriculum of courses taught by our Educational Institution Partners. This program is not just for traditional agriculture classes.
One of GreenSeam Futures’ goals is to think “outside the box” when it comes to what areas of study can incorporate these partnership learning opportunities. Projects could range from solving equipment design problems in an engineering class and conducting public opinion surveys in a communications class to developing a start-up’s marketing strategy with a collaboration between business and visual arts majors.
The business partners in these classroom-business partnerships would primarily be small businesses and start-ups in the community that may not otherwise be able to afford traditional consulting or external research. Participating businesses would pay a fee for the class’s services based on a sliding scale and would also be expected to pay all out-of-pocket costs associated with the project.
From FFA to beginning farmer loans, there are a plethora of resources available to students interested in agribusiness and to agribusinesses interested in innovation. One of GreenSeam Futures’ goals is to avoid duplicating resources already available to area students, ag innovators and entrepreneurs, but also to help these individuals actually find the resources that are the best fit for their needs.
The GreenSeam Gateway will leverage GreenSeam Futures’ extensive knowledge of government and non-profit programs and resources, as well as its connections with the agribusiness community, to help match individuals and small businesses with the best resources for their growth.
GreenSeam Futures plans to implement its work-based learning support program and the GreenSeam Gateway in its first year of operations. At the same time, GreenSeam Futures will be working closely with its Educational Institution Partners to define the first public-benefit research project, identify faculty and students to conduct the research, and to devise a framework for classroom-business partnerships. The organization’s goal is to be ready to begin research projects from both categories in GreenSeam Futures’ second year of operations.