Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems is defined as "a way of producing and consuming food that ultimately promotes the continuous well-being of ourselves and our planet."

Students studying Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems focus on the social, economic and environmental aspects of food and agriculture - from farm to table and beyond. The program is designed to help students obtain a diversity of knowledge and skills, both in the classroom and through personal experiences both on and off campus.


The program includes several innovative features designed to help students acquire the knowledge, skills, and understanding needed to develop and work in more ecologically, economically and socially viable food and farming systems. These include: 

  •  Interdisciplinary Breadth: Integrating natural and social science knowledge and skills
  •  Systems Thinking: Understanding connections among diverse components of farming and food systems, social institutions, and the environment.
  •  Skill Development: Gaining practical skills including communication, analysis, problem solving, critical thinking, teamwork and leadership
  •  Experiential Learning: Engaging in wide range of practical experiences in agricultural and food systems through laboratories, field exercises, internships and other means.
  •  Linking the Real World with Classroom: Bringing practitioners into the classroom, sending students into the field, and discussing and analyzing these experiences.
  •  Community Building: Being part of community that includes students, faculty, internship sponsors, and others enhances learning and reflects the reality of life after school.


The program is designed to help students gain a diversity of knowledge, skills and experiences using traditional and nontraditional teaching methods, including hands-on experiential learning techniques. All students will take courses in a broad range of disciplines grounded in agricultural science, but each will focus their studies within one of three tracks: agriculture and ecology, food and society, or economics and policy. The curriculum is built around a number of common preparatory core courses, which allow students to develop a shared knowledge base and social network. They are: 

  •  Introduction to Sustainable Agriculture
  •  Food Systems
  •  Sustainability and Agroecosystem Management
  •  Economics of Agricultural Sustainability
  •  Capstone: Workshop on Food System Sustainability

The preparatory classes in each track provide basic disciplinary training in agricultural, environmental, and social sciences. In upper division classes students can choose from several areas of specialization.


Introduction to Sustainable Agriculture : Course Description: Agricultural sustainability from an agroecological perspective. Ecosystem functions, resource use, management, productivity and other outputs of agricultural systems. Sustainability, including socioeconomic and other factors and their interactions with biophysical factors. Laboratory activities explore agricultural sustainability through direct field experiences with diverse production practices and agricultural systems. 

Food Systems : Course Description: Social aspects of agri-food systems. Political economy of food, agriculture, and sustainability with an understanding of connections to power, labor, knowledge, new technologies, governance and social movements. Discussions of specific commodity chains – vegetables, grains, meat – in comparative global context. Instructor: R. Galt

Sustainability and Agroecosystem Management Course Description: Interdisciplinary analysis of agricultural production and food systems with primary emphasis on biophysical processes. General concepts governing the functioning of temperate and tropical agroecosystems in relation to resource availability, ecological sustainability, and socio-economic viability. Comparative ecological analyses of agroecosystems.

Economics of Agricultural Sustainability Course Description: Application of economic concepts to agro-environmental issues relevant to agricultural sustainability. Market efficiency, production externalities, government intervention, agricultural trade, and product differentiation, as related to sustainability issues. Case studies include genetically modified foods and geographically differentiated products. Instructors: R. Howitt and D. Sumner

Senior Capstone – Workshop on Food System Sustainability Course Description: Senior capstone course featuring user-oriented, multi-disciplinary projects and other experience-based learning activities. Synthesis of previously-gained knowledge and skills through team projects addressing specific problems and opportunities of sustainable agriculture and food systems