Hailing from the great dairy state of Wisconsin in America, Jake Schultz started his career as an educator within the American school system only to see a great need to support sustainable and organic farming systems within America’s aging farmer population.
"Food and everything that surrounds it is the property that brings us all together, no matter what part of the planet you are from," he says.
"Within that, the sustainability of our food systems and the future of it is key. Because without it, we lose everything."
It's with that knowledge and understanding that shaped Jake to study, develop, and experience various farming practices.
"It made no sense to me that there was a disconnect within the current failing industrial farming system with their practices that create massive erosion, farm viability issues, health issues, and major debt, yet there were alternative and sustainable viable models out there that younger individuals wanted to, and are getting into. By helping the next generation with out-of-the-box thinking, we are able to change the way individuals see farming as a viable and positive option. Not only helping them but also helping their surrounding communities."
Jake went on to obtain experiential knowledge working on organic and permaculture farms to build his base and to make connections with others to support one another. With that basis, he co-established a small-scale organic farm in a car park in the heart of a major city, Minneapolis, obtained his certification to teach permaculture design, obtained his certification for beekeeping from the University of Minneapolis, and established and maintained organic beehives for organic farms. He then went on to expand his knowledge of various cultural farming systems from within South America.
Now living in New Zealand, Jake has worked within the organic sector and has seen what this country has to offer and the ability we have to support one another.
As the Lecturer and developer of the sustainable agriculture and beekeeping programmes at UCOL, he has made full circle back to his education roots.
"It's about empowering students to the various possibilities and opportunities that New Zealand has to offer within this sector. It's really coming out of its shell and I want to help students understand that you don't need a huge farm and investment to become viable. That said, a huge farm with an investment can also be just as economically and environmentally viable with these systems too. It's alternative thinking approaches based on other successful models happening here and throughout the world. With this knowledge and practice, they not only get the experience, but also see their connection to their food, supporting the community they live in, and are sustaining the environment around them in a positive way; which affects everyone."
His approach to teaching is to see the system as a whole with hands-on practical techniques. He wants students to explore new possibilities, see niches within the field, and how supporting one another in the end helps communities grow.