Agroecology and Organic Gardening Systems

Course Description: 

This course will be both a theoretical and practical introduction to agroecology and to organic farming techniques. Agroecology is an integrative approach to the study of agriculture that encompasses interactions between agricultural systems and their associated ecosystems, as well as the complexity of the entire food system, including ecological, economic, and social dimensions.

In this course, students will gain an understanding of the interactions between agricultural systems and the environment. We will examine how multiple factors (biological, chemical, and physical) influence integrated food systems and we will gain an in-depth understanding of inputs and outputs in agricultural systems and their relation to primary productivity, nutrient cycling, energy flows, and species interactions on farms. Students will integrate concepts across agronomy, ecology, biogeochemistry, and soil science. Students will integrate all these elements into a research project based on a visit to 3 organic farms in Hungary. During those visits, students will have the opportunity to question and discuss with the farm manager how the farm is managed, what are the problems and successes of organic farming and how the agroecology principles studied in class are applied/not applied in the farm. 

Learning Outcomes: 

1. Understand foundational agroecological principles, including relationships between agricultural systems and surrounding ecosystems.

2. Integrate and synthesize knowledge of agroecology systems, including crop selection, crop rotation, and soil, weed, and insect management.

3. Apply basic practical organic farming techniques and reflect on the complexities and challenges of managing an organic farm.

4. Understand the issues related to the environmental sustainability of farming systems.

5. Identify, evaluate, and effectively communicate personal thinking regarding alternative agricultural systems that seek to make contemporary food systems more sustainable.

Assessment: 

• In-class participation in discussions 10%

• One minute paper(s), commentary (max. 850 words) 20%

• Presentation 20%

• Research project (written text, max. 2000 words) 50%

Prerequisites: 

NA