CORVALLIS, Ore. - Abha Gupta (Latham, N.Y.), a graduate student in horticulture at Oregon State University, has received a $10,000 Sustainable Agriculture Scholarship from Annie's Homegrown.

Annie's natural and organic foods business each year offers $75,000 in scholarships to students studying sustainable agriculture. During her first farming season out of college, Gupta worked at Blue Heron Organic farms, an experience that shaped her views of the food system.

"I saw how farming organically is more about farming the soil, rather than the vegetables themselves," she said.

Gupta's research investigates the impact of school gardens on academic achievement and how local foods programs influence school pride, self-confidence and academic performance of students in elementary, middle and high school.

"The outcomes of Gupta's graduate work are sure to help educators and policy makers better understand how access to healthy, local foods can influence learning environments," said Gail Langellotto-Rhodaback, an OSU horticulture professor and coordinator of the university's Master Gardener program.

"Abha possesses the academic acumen that allows her to consider and collate data and concepts from multiple sources," Langellotto-Rhodaback said. "Her socially conscious values lead her to find answers that can help our communities be more just and healthy."

When Gupta completes school, she plans to continue working with the farm-to-school movement to develop school programs, teach, start a farm or bring farming and gardening to communities as an extension agent.

"Having a strong connection to our food and how it is grown is integral to a healthy society and individual health," she said. "People must know what it means to eat well and produce food in a responsible way, if only because we should know how to tend to one of our basic human functions."

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