Erez is standing outside with three other people, two of them who are holding signs about soil conservationName: Erez Brandvain ’13

Sterling degree: Sustainable Agriculture

Current hometown: Vandalia, Michigan

Employment: Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program

Can you tell us about your current work? I work for the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program, the country’s gold standard voluntary agriculture conservation program. The program sets in place rigorous expectations, which are a combination of Generally Accepted Agriculture Management Programs and Michigan legislation. The program works to minimize potential environmental risks through evaluating cropping practices (nutrient management, tillage, pesticide application), livestock practices (manure management, grazing, lot layouts), and farmstead design (fuel tanks, chemical storage, well isolation distances).

Once program requirements are met, farms are officially verified by the state of Michigan and receive legal protections, cost share priorities, marketing advantages, and several other benefits.

How did Sterling influence your career path and life path? Sterling certainly taught me the value of diligence and thoroughness. Particularly in the sciences, a high standard was expected and for that I am grateful. I would spend several late nights in the library to make sure my work would meet the expected results. Of course the Work Program was incredibly helpful as well. In my career, balancing several types of work and being ready to take on physical and office type work on the same day is the norm, so having a combination of work and school projects has laid the groundwork for me to be successful in my current career.

How are you serving as a beacon in these turbulent ecological and political times? I have established myself as a leader in the Southwest Michigan agricultural sector, and I give lots of credit to Sterling for instilling the values of respect, care, and diligence, to the people around me and the the environment. I make myself accessible to clients and land owners, and show them how being an agriculture steward benefits them and the people around them.

What is your most memorable Sterling “out in the field” story? Rick Thomas being a great teacher. Having confidence in me (well maybe more in Rex) that I can get things done with a horse when I have never even been around one before. Even when I thought me and Rex were going to take a tumble, he would always talk me through exactly how to accomplish the task.

Any words of wisdom for the current Sterling generation? Science is a great thing!


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