Seeds of Change: Food, Culture, and Work

Fall 2017 and Winter 2018 quarters

Taught by

food justice, social movements, urban agriculture, social inequalities
Spanish language, Latin American studies
Martha Rosemeyer
agricultural ecology, food systems
  • UG

We all eat to live, but how often do we stop to ask where our food comes from? How was it grown, who cultivated and harvested it, and how did it arrive at our tables? Do we all have the same access to food?  How has the migration of workers to harvest food, as well as their movements for social justice, created new forms of culture, from protest songs to teatro campesino (farmworkers’ theatre)?  What agriculture and food policies shape the food system?

This program seeks to address these questions, by examining the intersections of food ecology, labor history, food justice, food policy and cultural change.  Fall quarter will focus on three specific commodities, which may include apples, bananas, sugar, coffee, tomatoes or another food crop. In each case, we will explore how the crop has impacted environmental, economic, social, and cultural relationships over time.  For example, apples are a crop that symbolizes Washington State nationally and internationally. We will study the ecological conditions for cultivating this crop, its environmental impact, the ways it is harvested and traded, how workers have attempted to organize themselves, the policy that shapes work and accessibility and the literature and art that have aided their social movements. We will explore how systems of power—involving race, class, and gender, among others—shape work, access to food, governmental policy, environmental sustainability and ultimately our overall food system. 

Fall quarter, a typical week will involve lectures, seminar discussions, films, workshops, along with some  lab and field work.  Students will write frequent essays about readings in environmental science, social science, and humanities. Basic concepts in these fields will emerge from our case studies.  In addition to a 3-day field trip, there will be a few organized opportunities for putting our learning into action through volunteer work with local non-profit groups focusing on food issues.

Winter quarter, we will further develop our understanding of concepts introduced in the fall, moving from specific crops to a larger view of intersecting social, political and environmental systems. Throughout winter quarter, we will continue to have seminars, lectures, and field trips as a program.  Since the Washington legislature is in session we may try to attend a meeting.  In addition, students will research crops of their own choosing, developing case studies along the lines we explored together in the fall.  During the quarter, there will be workshops in qualitative and quantitative research methods to support students’ projects.  Students will have the opportunity to present their learning to the larger community, first in the form of posters or short skits about food issues, and later in a more formal research presentation at the quarter’s end.

Program Details

Fields of Study

agriculture cultural studies ecology history law and government policy literature political economy

Preparatory For

food systems or agriculture, food policy, political economy, and cultural studies


Fall Open Winter Open

Location and Schedule

Final Schedule and Room Assignment

Campus Location


Time Offered


Advertised Schedule

First class meeting: Tuesday, September 26 at 9am (Sem II E1105)

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning


$250 per quarter for overnight field trips.


2017-06-14This program now accepts students of all levels (Fr-Sr).
2017-04-25Fee increased (from $125 per quarter to $250 per quarter).
2017-04-25This program is now offered to sophomores.