This intensive field course is an introduction to the modern food system at a time when enormous changes are underway. Subjects include the ecology of agricultural ecosystems, current ecological and socio-economic crises in agriculture, as they affect both rural and urban communities, and the global food system. The course applies principles of ecology to agricultural systems, surveys diverse components of the current food system, evaluates sustainable alternatives to modern industrial agricultural practices, and examines interconnections between agriculture in powerful countries and in countries with little power. Course activities include lectures, discussions, and field trips to local farms and food-related organizations. The class will engage in field trips or exercises every day that the course meets. The course emphasizes (1) principles of ecology as they apply to agricultural ecosystems and the effects of agricultural activities on native ecosystems, (2) local agricultural ecosystems through visits to rural and urban farms in southern Michigan, (3) the ecological, social, and economic consequences of modern industrial agriculture, (4) principles of sustainable agriculture, and (5) rural and urban dimensions of agriculture.
Students should be prepared for a stimulating and demanding schedule of activities, both in southeastern Michigan and in Cuba.
Course readings will come from Agroecology (Stephen Gliessman, 2007), Sustainable Agriculture and Resistance: Transforming Food Production in Cuba (Fernando Funes and others, 2001), and Agroecological Revolution: The Farmer to Farmer Movement of the ANAP in Cuba (Machin Sosa and others, 2013), and relevant articles.
Students will write short essays and field-trip reports, reflections on a wiki site, and prepare a synthetic group assessment for both a paper and oral presentations.
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