Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems


Students completing this interdisciplinary program will graduate with the skills and knowledge needed to contribute to the sustainable development, production, harvesting, management, and utilization of terrestrial and aquatic microorganisms, plants and animals by society worldwide. The major will allow participants to explore the food chain, from farm to plate to waste and back, emphasizing sustainability, impacts on human health, and resilience from economic, environmental, and societal viewpoints. Core values of this interdisciplinary program that distinguish it from more traditional agriculture programs include an emphasis on the intrinsic value of heterogeneous scales of production (from small farms that sell directly to consumers to large scale producers), preserving local food cultures and biodiversity while understanding the way other cultures produce and use food (from local to global), using an ecosystem-based approach to agriculture (also integrating the contributions of aquaculture and fisheries), and the greening of urban landscapes. By the time of degree completion students will be uniquely poised to enter the workforce in the growing field of sustainable food systems or pursue management (through governmental and non-governmental agencies) and graduate education/research opportunities addressing the challenges of securing access to safe and affordable food for a growing population.

SAFS students will pursue a curriculum that combines depth in a specialization area chosen from three options within the program (Food Production, Nutrition and Food, and Food and Society) with breadth across the natural and social sciences, engineering, and the arts and humanities. The program entails a total of 120 credits including:

A common introductory core sequence emphasizing the interdisciplinary and systems-approach to sustainability. As part of this core sequence, students are required to take the interdisciplinary courses COM 108, AVS 132, HSS 130, NFS 210, EEC 105, and APG 301, as well as the basic science courses BIO 101/103, BIO 102/104, and CHM 101/102 or CHM 103/105.

An intermediate-level framework of courses providing depth in the area of specialization (options) while reinforcing the interdisciplinary, systems-thinking focus of the major. The options are:

Food Production Option: Students in this option will specialize in the harvesting and production of either terrestrial or aquatic plants and animals for human uses. They will understand the integrated components of fisheries and agriculture/aquaculture systems (soils, microbes, plants, animals), and the impacts of agriculture and food harvesting on the environment. Students are required to take two introductory food production courses (to choose from AFS 102/104, AFS 120/121, AVS101/102, PLS 150, PLS 255), two agriculture management courses (to choose from AFS 201/201, AFS 321/322, AVS 104, PLS 324/325, and PLS 311), and two environment-related courses (to choose from NRS 212, AVS/PLS 275, CHE 212). They are also required to take one course from each of the two other options (Nutrition and Food, Food and Society).

Nutrition and Food Option: Students in this option will learn the basic principles of food science and nutrition. Students are required to take NFS 212, 245, 336, 337, 375, 376 and one course from each of the two other options (Food Production, Food and Society).

Food and Society Option: Students in this option will specialize in the social, political, economic, and marketing aspects of food production. Students are required to take two courses on the cultural aspects of food (to choose from APG 203, APG/SOC 329, APG/SOC 415), two courses on policy (to choose from MAF 100, APG/MAF 413, MAF 330), two courses on economics (to choose from EEC 205, 310, 350, 355), and one course from each of the two other options (Food Production, Nutrition and Food).

A robust capstone experience in which students will master the ability to address the complex challenges in the area of sustainable agriculture and food systems through experiential learning in interdisciplinary teams. Students are required to take NRS 300, AVS/NFS 504, and perform an internship or special project under the supervision of an interdisciplinary team of experts.