Food Studies: Meet Ben, the Would-Be Industrial Designer Turned Plant Scientist

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Food Studies: Meet Ben, the Would-Be Industrial Designer Turned Plant Scientist Food Studies: Meet Ben, the Would-Be Industrial Designer Turned Plant Scientist

Food Studies: Meet Ben, the Would-Be Industrial Designer Turned Plant Scientist

by Ben Mansfeld

April 7, 2011

Food Studies features the voices of volunteer student bloggers from a variety of different food- and agriculture-related programs at universities around the world. This is Ben's first post for GOOD.

About a year ago I found myself in a predicament. I wanted to study green industrial design but was not accepted to any of the design schools I applied for. I had to find something else to do with my life.

One evening while sitting with friends, one of them asked me about a group of plants in my parents' garden. I must have gotten quite animated as I explained that those were male and female papaya plants and how they pollinate. You see, my family has a small orchard and we mainly grow oranges, but have grown papaya and passion fruit as well. We keep the farm mostly as a hobby, working and picking the fruit ourselves for fun, but three years ago we started selling our produce at the local farmers market in Tel Aviv.

A friend said, "Ben, listen to yourself! Why don’t you study agriculture?" It was like a light bulb going off in my head; within weeks I had applied and was accepted to the prestigious Hebrew University Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment to study for B.Sc. in Plant Science in Agriculture.

Now, well into my second semester, I can't believe this was sitting under my nose all along. I can’t imagine studying anything else!

Although my school is part of Hebrew University of Jerusalem, our campus is located in the town of Rehovot, world-renowned as a center of research and technology in many scientific fields, including biotechnology and agriculture.

My program covers a broad range of fields and topics and frankly I was scared out of my mind when I first saw the theoretical course load and curriculum that included calculus, physics, biochemistry, and entomology. I thought I was going to be plowing a field, what the heck was entomology? I've since learned that it's the study of insects and is one of the more interesting and important subjects in my degree. Also, as it turns out, I am taking practical courses as well, such as Plant Biology and Agriculture in Israel, which discuss such important topics as water conservation, sustainable farming, and the development of new agricultural technologies.

I've also recently started working as a research assistant for one of my professors. He is an expert on wheat and is seeking to increase crop yields by creating a more durable and drought resistant species.

I wanted to study green design to create something that would change how people live their daily lives. Now, I hope to be able to influence the most important of day-to-day activities—food.

To be continued...

Ben is a student blogger for the Food Studies feature on GOOD's Food hub. If you enjoyed this, you should check out the rest of the Food Studies blogger gang, and their musings on table manners, iodine, land-grant universities, and more.

Photos by the author

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