Ecological Agriculture: Healthy Soil, Healthy People
Winter 2016 and Spring 2016 quarters
More than three-quarters of the arable land mass of the planet is influenced by human needs and desires for food and fiber. There are competing visions for the future of our agriculture and food systems. A global, fossil-fuel-based system provides large quantities of inexpensive food along with significant environmental and social impacts. Another vision is a local, community-based system that produces higher quality, but more expensive, food while seeking to minimize environmental and social impacts. Critical questions that will inform our inquiry include: Can we grow high-quality food that is available to everyone? How did we get into this current agricultural predicament of industrial production and a global population that is simultaneously both “stuffed” and “starved?” How can an individual make a difference?
This program will provide an interdisciplinary study of agriculture in the context of food systems. We will explore competing ideas while developing ecological and holistic thinking, which will be applied in hands-on laboratory and field exercises, expository and scientific report writing, critical analysis of film, and quantitative reasoning. Seminar will examine history, policy, and socioeconomic and political contexts of agriculture and health.
In winter, we will focus on soil science, particularly soil ecology and nutrient cycling in lecture and lab. We will also examine food and agricultural policy at the national, state and local level, as well as the prospects for creating more sustainable food systems. Our learning will be supported by an extended field trip to the Ecological Farming Conference in California and visits to a number of rural farms and urban agriculture projects. Seminar will examine U.S. agricultural history, food system policy, economics, and moral and ethical dimensions of food production.
In spring, we will combine the topics of tropical farming systems, global health, and the health of agricultural workers. We will study agroecology, indigenous agriculture, and permaculture in a tropical context. As a final project, students will apply their knowledge to create a farm plan in a geographic area of their choice. Tropical farming intersects with larger questions of occupational health, including health-related burdens of workers in agriculture broadly and specifically in migrant laborers in the United States. Integrating scientific and political population-based analyses, students will examine public health principles and policies related to pesticide exposure and other chemical, biological, and physical risks faced by agricultural workers. Seminar will focus on understanding structural causes of global hunger, poverty, and disease, exploring the common roots of both malnutrition and obesity.
Fields of Study
Preparatory for studies or careers in
Location and Schedule
Offered during: Day
May be offered again in
|November 18th, 2015||This program will accept enrollment with signature.|
|April 15th, 2015||This program will now start winter quarter.|