2011-12 Catalog

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Offering Description

Ecological Agriculture: Developing a Local, Sustainable Food System


Fall 2011 and Winter 2012 quarters

Martha Rosemeyer agricultural ecology, food systems , Thomas Johnson , David Muehleisen sustainable agriculture, entomology
Fields of Study
agriculture, biology, ecology, political economy and sustainability studies
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; and agricultural and food justice non-profit organizations.
  High school general biology and chemistry course

What is a food system? Why does it matter? A battle for the future of our food system is being waged between competing visions. On one side is the global, industrial-based system that provides large quantities of inexpensive food along with significant environmental and social impacts. The competing vision is a local, community-based system that produces higher quality, more expensive food while seeking to minimize environmental and social impacts. We will explore these competing visions from a critical perspective of social and ecological sustainability. Critical questions that will inform our inquiry include: Can a humane, socially just agricultural system that minimizes environmental degradation meet the food needs of the world? Can farmers be stewards of the soil, biodiversity and landscape? Can we grow high-quality food that is available to everyone? How did we get into this food system predicament anyway? Are local, sustainable food systems best?

This program will provide a broad, interdisciplinary study of agriculture. We will emphasize developing "systems" thinking and skills associated with community work, expository writing, laboratory and library research, as well as quantitative reasoning skills. Lectures will focus on ecological principles applied to agroecosystems, soil science and fertility management, crop and livestock management, as well as local to global food system structure, socio-economic aspects of agriculture and agricultural history. Labs will provide a hands-on introduction to soil ecology and fertility. Students will identify needs, gather data and write a report of relevance to developing a sustainable local food system. Multi-day field trips will allow students to visit farms working toward sustainability, meet key players in food system change and attend meetings such as the Washington Tilth Producers conference and Eco-Farm conference in California.

Fall emphasis : The Agroecology portion of fall quarter will emphasize energy flow and biodiversity as applied to agricultural systems, using Steve Gliessman's textbook, Agroecology: The Ecology of Sustainable Food Systems, second edition. A social science approach will focus on the role that ideas and institutions have played in shaping US agriculture. We will work toward assessing the needs of our local food system. Seminar books will support our inquiry. Field trips, as well as attending the Tilth Conference in Yakima are planned.

Winter emphasis : The agroecology portion will focus on soil science, soil ecology and nutrient cycling. We will work with civic engagement as a way to move us toward our vision. A policy workshop focusing both on local and national policy such as the 2012 Farm Bill is planned. Students will gather data and write a report on a particular aspect appropriate to developing a local food system in Thurston County. There will be an emphasis on lab exercises, critical analysis, library research and expository writing. Seminar books will again support our inquiry. A field trip to attend the Eco-Farm conference in California will be part of the curriculum.

Students interested in continuing their studies of agriculture in spring quarter can continue with Ecological Agriculture: Crop Botany, Genetics and Development with Donald Morisato and Martha Rosemeyer or Practice of Sustainable Agriculture with Dave Muehleisen and Stephen Bramwell.

Online Learning
Enhanced Online Learning
Greener Store
Required Fees
Fall $140 for field trips; Winter $500 for a trip to the Eco-Farm Conference.
Internship Required
May be offered again in
Fall 2013-2014
Offered During

Program Revisions

Date Revision
December 6th, 2011 Signature requirement required for admission winter quarter.
November 17th, 2011 Fees updated.
August 8th, 2011 TJ Johnson has been added to the faculty team.
May 11th, 2011 New program added.