Ecological Agriculture: Healthy Soil, Healthy People

Spring 2016 quarter

Taught by

agricultural ecology, food systems
health science, public health, bioethics

Currently, 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.

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.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

farm, nursery, and garden management; agriculture, food system and environmental consulting firms; state and county agricultural and natural resource agencies; occupational health; farming internships abroad, Peace Corps service, and agricultural and food justice nonprofit organizations.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


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Online Learning

Hybrid Online Learning < 25% Delivered Online

More information about online learning.

Required Fees

$250 for an overnight field trip.

May be offered again in


Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Spring)

Class standing: Sophomore–Senior

Maximum enrollment: 50


Course Reference Numbers

So (16 credits): 30138
Jr (16 credits): 30139
Sr (16 credits): 30140

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