Mary Taylor is a current, but soon to be former, MPP student at Delaware Valley University. She grew up in Edgemere, Maryland right on the coast of the Chesapeake Bay. Initially, Mary began her journey at DelVal in 2012 as a small animal science major, although she soon found that small animal science wasn’t fulfilling her interests.
DelVal is widely recognized for its strong historical background in agriculture. Today, the University has maintained this value in the form of a variety of majors: field and crop management, livestock management, horticulture, and animal husbandry. Specifically, agribusiness caught Mary’s attention as it focuses on encouraging students to be involved with the social, economic, political, and technological changes taking place in the world with regards to agriculture. Although Mary thoroughly enjoyed the agribusiness program, she was unsure of what exactly she wanted to with her education. She knew she’d be prepared to work in sales, marketing, or in finance, but knew that that wouldn’t fulfill her desire to serve an advocate for sustainable agriculture and a healthy environment.
During her senior year of undergrad, Mary attended the Precarious Alliance, an interdisciplinary forum hosted by DVU dedicated to exploring the challenges associated with sustainability, especially the problems posed by adapting human networks and addressing the effects of environmental degradation, economic instability, and social inequalities in local communities and global settings. At this event, Mary was exposed to DelVal graduate students presenting their academic research. Through this experience, Mary was inspired to investigate the MPP program. Also around this time, Mary was participating in her final year of soccer. She mentioned her interest in the MPP program to her coach suggested that Mary check out the Graduate Assistant (GA) program. As a GA, Mary would work as an assistant women’s soccer coach at Delaware Valley University in exchange for a masters degree in public policy.
Once admitted into the MPP program, Mary continued to study agribusiness and sustainable agriculture in a new light. She began to look at agricultural issues from a public policy perspective. Mary feels that the MPP program has allowed her the freedom to explore her interests in agricultural issues and has spent the past two years closely studying ways to shift the food system and agriculture industry away from conventional agricultural methods that are socially and economically destructive.
Ultimately, Mary’s interest in public policy comes down to her passion for local food economies and how communities have become disconnected from local food economies over the past century. She strives to redefine that community connection. Mary believes that by creating strong connections between farmers and consumers within communities, communities will be able to support themselves instead of relying on “who knows what, where”. The current state of the food system does not address the issues of local economies and has hindered local farmers and food producers from pursuing their livelihoods and prevents consumers from supporting local agriculture.
Mary has an enduring passion for small businesses and local economies, especially in the agriculture industry. In a recent interview, Mary stated, “It’s crazy how over the course of history if someone wanted a stable job, they turned to farming. Now, working as a farmer or in the agriculture industry doesn’t even cross people’s mind. Unless you were born into a family farm or inherited land, people have no reason to get into farming. They don’t even think about farming as an opportunity. It’s a shame.” However, Mary does think that times are changing. She mentioned that for the first time in a while, people want to know where their food is coming from. Social media has helped those who care about these issues educate the greater population about food, conventional agriculture and what it’s doing. People are starting to care more about workers rights, fair trade, and environmental issues.
Currently, Mary is an Intern in the Community and Economic Development Department at the Urban Affairs Coalition (UAC), a non-profit Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Urban Affairs Coalition unites government, business, neighborhoods, and individual initiatives to improve the quality of life in the region, build wealth in urban communities, and solve emerging issues. Mary’s main project is working on the Philly Home by Now program which is an employer-assisted housing program. The UAC partners with the city of Philadelphia to help employers offer their employees assistance in buying a home in the form of grants or forgivable loans.
In the future, Mary sees herself working with agriculture and non-profits. She is interested in a job that allows her to be hands-on and lets her get out and talk to people. Mary is eager to help people at a personal level by solving challenges face-to-face.