Eric Benjamin Gordon
MPS, Global Development
- Hometown: Larchmont, NY and Kingston, NY
- Colleges attended and degree earned: Bard College, B.A. Theater & Performance
Tell us a fun fact about you.
Other than the fact that I have a degree in theater?
What are the big challenges you want to tackle in the world?
I would like to help connect farmers to their soil to help them make the most ecologically and economically sound management decisions. Soil amendments and fertilizers are a finite resource and expensive, particularly for farmers of the Global South. I hope to find ways to make soil fertility and biological health testing more accessible to low-income farmers.
What were you doing before the MPS program?
I was a Crop Extension Volunteer in Peace Corps Paraguay from September 2017 to December 2019. I worked with a committee of small farmers in my community on various projects. I worked with the community to write a grant for a project to build wood-efficient, brick cookstoves for families that usually cook on open fires on the ground. I worked with and trained two professional bricklayers of my community in the cookstove design who have continued to make these cookstoves for families outside of the ones built through the grant.
I also worked with an Extension Agent from Paraguay’s Ministry of Agriculture to promote soil conservation and cover crop management techniques to the small farmers committee via a demonstration plot.
Lastly, I worked with other volunteers to design and pilot a curriculum teaching soil management and cover crop demonstration plots for Peace Corps volunteers to use and teach in Paraguayan agriculture high schools.
Before the Peace Corps, I was working on small vegetable and livestock farms in New York and Vermont for three years. During the pandemic summer of 2020 and before starting the MPS program, I was lead equipment operator for bed preparation and cultivation at a small vegetable farm in Kingston, NY.
What does global development mean to you?
It’s a hard question to answer, but it makes me think of the decades-old phrase “think globally, act locally.” While I respect the core principle and intentions of this saying, I find that acting locally is impossible in such an interconnected world. To sum this up, I share a passage by geographer and environmentalist Dr. Jennifer M. Bernstein:
“Acting at the local level feels good because the results are visible and tangible. Some people dream of getting rid of possessions, installing solar panels, eating from the garden and practicing a life rooted in place, sensitive to the needs of the Earth. But the world is more complicated than that. I may think I’m acting locally, but in fact I’m in contact with distant communities every day...In my view, we don’t get to choose. Everything local is global, and vice versa. It’s a matter of continuing to participate, to question ourselves and our behaviors, to assess and reassess the needs of the planet, and hold dearly the tensions that come with trying to make positive environmental change.”
What has been the most memorable or impactful experience of your career so far?
The most impactful experience of my career, in my opinion, was connecting the small farmer’s committee in my community to the Ministry of Agriculture. While others may think that more tangible accomplishments (such as the cookstoves project mentioned above) are more impactful, I used my energy and resources to find a local, hardworking, and knowledgeable Extension Agent who would be able to continue to work with the farmers long after I finished my Peace Corps service. The work experience and connection with the Extension Agent has inspired me to pursue agriculture extension work both in the US and abroad.
Connect with Eric:
ebg57 [at] cornell.edu