The course explores diverse aspects of agriculture and agricultural sustainability, primarily from various natural science perspectives, although we integrate other perspectives including social, economic, political and ethical as we try to understand some of the diverse factors that influence, and are influenced by, agriculture and issues of sustainability and productivity. We consider the resources and conditions required by agriculture, how agriculture uses resources, some of the intended and unintended consequences of agriculture, and various questions these raise about agriculture’s sustainability. The lecture portion of the class includes time devoted to group discussions. In most cases, students complete pre-discussion written assignments prior to class to help prepare for the discussion.
Laboratory exercises and field trips are a big part of the class. They provide students with direct, in-field experiences with diverse aspects of a number of production practices and agricultural systems. The class visits multiple agricultural operations in the region. Students work individually and in teams and develop and use tools to assess the sustainability of agricultural operations. They also gain experience using science-based information to understand the ecology and management of crops, soils, nutrients and pests.