Student Spotlight

Devin Foote- SAEA Student Member

Devin is a Masters candidate from Michigan State in the Department of Community Sustainability focusing on regional food systems. His thesis work through the Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS) is looking at small farm viability with urban, peri-urban, and rural producers across Michigan. A former (2006-07) and now current SAEA student member, Devin is no stranger to agricultural work, having grown up with vegetable, dairy, and commodity farming. After managing CSA farms in New York and working in DC on agricultural policy issues he has spent the past 6 years working as an educator, farm manager, site developer and aggregator of all things grown in Detroit, working with Detroit residents to develop a more robust local and regional food system. In addition to his current research of Michigan’s small farm viability, Devin spent time earlier this summer working with producers and processors in Rwanda’s coffee sector assessing the sectors value chain for sustainable producers. Post-genocide Rwanda has become a gem in the heart of conflict prone central Africa with a strong agricultural base and nearly 400,000 coffee farmers supporting a continually evolving and improving high quality coffee culture. Coffee has continually improved as a result of coffee washing station improvements and in country farmer-to-farmer networking. For instance, in 2005, specialty coffee accounted for 4 percent of Rwandan coffee production. Today, it claims one-third of the coffee industry, according to the Rwandan Agriculture Board. The sector has seen a continued rise of sustainable producers – those who produce organic or low spray coffees through the 160+ cooperatives that exist across the country. As with any organic or low-input system, producers face the challenge of carefully integrating Integrated Pest Management (IPM) methods, more so now then ever courtesy of the Antestia Bug which causes Potato Taste defect. Rwanda started having problems with potato taste about four years ago, after they started concentrating on specialty coffee. The difference between specialty coffee and regular coffee is like night and day. Specialty coffee requires a lot more work, but its price is relatively stable compared with ordinary coffee. That means that coffee represents a whopping percentage of their income. Most likely a microbe is involved, and it might be associated with a group of stinkbugs called Antestia. When potato taste comes from a batch, and it can be traced back to an origin, the district is usually infested with Antestia. So there’s a loose correlation with the insect. And the Antestia bug by itself, regardless of this taste, damages 35 percent of the coffee yield. Questions about Devin’s work? Connect with him at devinfoote@gmail.com