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Dickinson College Farm Inspires Sustainable Zoning Amendment

Valeria Carranza '09 (left) and wife Lauren Carranza, during a 2019 tour of the College Farm.

Valeria Carranza '09 (left) and wife Lauren Carranza, during a 2019 tour of the College Farm.

Trustee Valeria Carranza ’09 sparks positive change in home state

by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson

You never know just where and when inspiration might strike. For Valeria Carranza ’09, it was an annual Alumni Weekend event that paved the way toward impactful legislation that helps create a more sustainable world.

Carranza’s family came to America in the 1980s to flee civil war in their native El Salvador. The first in her family to graduate from high school, she attended Dickinson on a full-tuition Posse Foundation scholarship and went on to forge a career in public service, beginning with a White House internship. Having served as executive director of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and as legislative director for the first formerly undocumented Member of Congress, Carranza has drafted and advanced legislation supporting racial justice, public education, immigration policy, LGBTQ+ rights, voter rights and anti-bullying initiatives. 

A year and a half ago, Carranza took an Alumni Weekend tour of Dickinson's College Farm to learn about the growing number of sustainable-agriculture operations and projects underway there. She’d been speaking with farmers in her local community about ways they might minimize food waste and reduce the negative effects of farming on the environment, and the College Farm’s zero-waste approach inspired her to partner with local farmers to draft a zoning amendment that would provide farmers in her home, Montgomery County, Maryland, with new options for mulching and composting on their land.

Prior to this, only 20% of the material that Montgomery County farmers composted on their land could have been brought in from outside sources. The amendment allows for 50% of the material composed on a Montgomery County farm to be brought in and composted onsite, reducing regional waste.

Carranza currently serves as chief of staff to Councilmember Evan Glass, Montgomery County Council, and as a Dickinson trustee. Speaking during a recent Board of Trustees meeting, Carranza recalled the ways her alma mater continues to inspire her, and the pride she derives from being a part of the college community.

“As an alum and trustee, I am proud of Dickinson's leadership in environmental sustainability and know that these innovative policies can serve as a model for communities nationwide,” she says. “With the impacts of climate change looming over us, Dickinson is positioned to change the world in sustainable ways.”

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Published November 30, 2021