Practice of Organic Farming: Culture and Agriculture

Summer 2018 (Full Session)
Class Size: 30
Credits per quarter

Compare offerings and share your lists with others.

Taught by

David Muehleisen
sustainable agriculture, entomology
feminist theory, consciousness studies

Note: this is the second quarter of a program starting Spring 2018 and ends in Fall 2018.

What does it take to run a farm business and market food to feed yourself and your community? Why are there fewer farmers even as movements intensify for local food, Slow Food, community-supported agriculture, and food sovereignty? Do foods with labels such as organic, heirloom, local, free exchange, or terroir-laden have a taste you can savor? How are foods affected by how you care for your soil and the practices you use to grow them? This three-quarter program (spring, summer, and fall) will explore organic food production systems using the three pillars of sustainability—economic, environmental, and social justice. We will focus on small-scale organic production, but will compare and contrast it to other production systems. We will cover the scientific and cultural underpinnings of sustainable and organic food production to develop the critical thinking and observation skills necessary to grow food using ecologically-informed methods. We will explore the farm management and business skills necessary to operate a small-scale farm.

We will be studying and working at the Evergreen Organic Farm through an entire growing season, from seed propagation to harvest, and on to market. The farm includes a small-scale, direct-market stand and other demonstration areas. All students will work on the farm every week to gain practical experiential learning. Students will reflect on this work in field journals and discuss agrarian literature in weekly seminars This program is rigorous physically and academically and requires a willingness to work both outside in adverse weather and on a schedule determined by the needs of crops and animals.

During spring quarter, we will focus on soil science, nutrient management, and crop botany. Additional topics will include introduction to animal husbandry, successional crop planning, season extension, and the principles and practice of composting. In summer, main topics will be water management, disease, weed and pest management. Additional topics will include, irrigation system design, maximizing market and value-added opportunities, and regulatory issues. Fall's focus will be on farm and business planning, crop physiology, storage techniques, seed-saving practices, and cover crops. Throughout the program, students will learn record keeping practices, alternative crop production systems, techniques for adding value to farm products, hand-tool use and maintenance, farm equipment safety, and communication and conflict-resolution skills.

Topics will be explored through on-farm workshops, seminar discussions, lectures, laboratory exercises, and field trips. Expect weekly reading and writing assignments, extensive collaborative group work, and a variety of hands-on projects. Weekly tasting labs will cultivate sensory skills to connect what have become disconnected: relationships among breeders, growers, chefs, and eaters. The fall final project will be a detailed farm and business plan that integrates all the topics covered in the program. Books might include  The Market Gardener  by Fortier,  Crop Planning for Organic Vegetable Growers  by Theriatult and Brisebois and  Farm to Table  by Benjamin and Virkler.

Students who need to request disability accommodation should contact the faculty or Access Services Program Coordinator  Steve Schmidt  (L2153, 360.867.6348; or TTY 360.867.6834) prior to the start of the quarter. If you require accessible transportation for field trips, please contact the faculty well in advance of field trip dates to allow time to arrange this.

Students receiving financial aid should contact financial aid early in Fall 2017 to develop a financial aid plan that includes Summer 2018.

This offering will prepare you for careers and advanced study in:

farm and garden management; working with nonprofit organizations focusing on food, land use, and agriculture; edible education; state and county extensions; and state and federal regulatory agencies.


Credits per quarter


Students must have taken high school algebra, biology, and chemistry. They should possess good communication skills and the ability/willingness to adhere to a structured work schedule. They also should be able to follow detailed directions in a work environment, and resolve conflicts in a group setting.

Online learning:
  • Hybrid Online Learning - This offering delivers < 25% of its instruction online, rather than via face-to-face contact between you and your instructors.

$300 in spring, $300 in summer, and $475 in fall for overnight field trips and supplies.

Class Standing: Freshman–Senior
Class Size: 30

Scheduled for: Day

Final schedule and room assignments:

Advertised schedule:

Classes meet Tue, Wed, Thu, 9 am - 4:30 pm. Students must be available for farm chores at 8:00 a.m., Monday-Friday.


Located in: Olympia