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APBI 265 Sustainable
Agriculture and Food Systems
APBI 265
Section: TBA
Instructor: TBA
Office Hours: TBA
Class Schedule: TBA
Classroom: TBA
Important Course Pages
Lecture Notes
Course Discussion

Principles and practices necessary to understand practical concerns of sustainable food systems. Credit will be given for only one of APBI 265 or APBI 260.

Course Description

This course in sustainable food and farming systems is designed as an essential primer for students with backgrounds in humanities, natural, or social sciences with interests in further studies, or with broad career goals based in agriculture, food, human, and ecological health. APBI 265 will also serve as the introductory course in the UBC Farm Practicum series, open to students who will have been accepted into the practicum and do not already have APBI 265. This course will be appropriate for any student intending to pursue applied placements in agricultural settings for international or community studies programs.

A broad survey of reading in the literatures of agroecology and agricultural sustainability science, coupled with engaged online discussion seminars and reflective writing, comprises the first section of the course entitled, "Agroecology and the Search for Sustainable Agriculture". Students will explore and debate the legacies of 20th century agricultural practices utilizing a framework of agroecological indicators and strategies for evaluating sustainable food and farming systems.

In the second section of the course, the biophysial and social foundations of agriculture are the main focal points. Students will develop an understanding of soil formation factors, and of the historical relationships and interdependencies between humankind and soils, facilitated by debate and discussion seminars, concept quizzes, and reflective writing.

The third, and final section of the course provides practical lessons in seed starting techniques, and builds team-based and experiential learning skills through an evaluation of farm case studies final review project.

Each section, or learning module, of the course will encompass approximately four weeks of readings, discussion, concept quizzes, reflective writing, and other listed assignments.

Course Learning Objectives

By the end of this course, students will (be able to):

  • Connect underlying agroecosystem concepts and soil science fundamentals with principles and practices of sustainable farming.
  • Critically assess the impacts of capital-intensive, industrial-scaled agriculture, and demonstrate a foundation of skills for the design and management of sustainable food and farming systems.
  • Apply skills in seed starting and demonstrate basic performance and understanding of creating soil seedling blends.
  • Trace their unique learning pathways, and articulate individual learning objectives for further studies in agriculture, food, and human health.
  • Demonstrate solid team-based skills for performance of field and case studies research.

Course Evaluation

Assessment Strategy Marks (%)
Discussion and participation 10
Concept quizzes (3) 15
Online learning journals (3) 15
Individual academic and reflective review paper (proposal 5%) 30
Team case study review (proposal 5%) 30
TOTAL 100%

Course Calendar and Assignments

Module 1

Module 1 Specific Learning Outcomes (Online Module)
Agroecology and the search for sustainable agriculture
  1. Identify and assess the impacts and critique of capital-intensive, industrial-scaled agriculture.
  2. Demonstrate the ability to articulate the connections between agroecological principles and community to regional-scaled farming systems.
  3. Identify and discuss a set of strategies for designing sustainable farming systems with agcoecologial principles.

Assigned Readings:

  • Altieri, M.A. (2004). Linking ecologists and traditional farmers in the search for sustainable agriculture. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 2, 35-42.
  • Gliessman, S.R. (2007). The need for sustainable production systems in Agroecology: the ecology of sustainable food systems (pp. 3-21). Boca Raton, FL: Taylor and Francis.
  • Gliessman, S.R. (2007). The agroecosystem concept in Agroecology: the ecology of sustainable food systems (pp 23-32). Boca Raton, FL: Taylor and Francis.
  • Pimentel, D., Hepperly, P., Hanson, J., Douds, D., Siedel, R. (2005). Environmental, energetic, and economic comparisons of organic and conventional farming systems. Bioscience. 55 (7), 573-582.
  • Pretty, J., Sutherland, W.J., Ashby, J., Auburn, J., Baulcombe, D., Bell, M...and Pilgram, S. (2010). The top 100 questions of importance to the future of global agriculture. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, 8, (4), 219-236.

Four Written and Discussion-Based Assignments for Module #1:

  1. Participation in reading discussion and debate
  2. Concept quiz #1
  3. Learning journal #1
  4. Proposal for individual academic and reflective review paper (5%)

Module 2

Module 2 Specific Learning Outcomes (Online Module)
Connecting Soil Science with Sustainable Farming Practices
  1. Identify and discuss the role soils and soil management practices have played in selected historical farming systems.
  2. Identify five factors of soil formation and discuss the roles that inherent soil properties play in sustainable agriculture decision making.
  3. Identify and discuss the role that dynamic soil properties play with sustainable agriculture decision making.

Assigned Readings:

  • Brady, N.C. and Weil, R.R. (2002). The soils around us. The nature and properties of soils (pp. 2-30). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall Press.
  • Brady, N.C. and Weil, R.R. (2002). Formation of soils from parent materials. The nature and properties of soils (pp. 31-74). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall Press.
  • Brady, N.C. and Weil, R.R. (2002). Carbon balance in the soil-plant-atmosphere system, and Factors and practices influencing soil organic matter levels. The nature and properties of soils (pp. 524-532). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall Press.
  • Krzic, M., K. Wiseman, L. Dampier, and D. Gaumont-Guay. (2004). SoilWeb200: an online teaching tool for APBI 200 course. The University of British Columbia, Vancouver. [1]
  • Luzzadder-Beach, S. and Beach, T. (2006). Wetlands as the intersection of soils, water, and indigenous human society in the Americas. in J.R. McNeill and V. Winiwarter (Eds) Soils and societies: perspectives from environmental history (pp. 91-117). Isle of Harris, UK: Whitehorse Press.

Four Written and Discussion-Based Assignments for Module #2:

  1. Participation in reading discussion and debate
  2. Concept Quiz #2
  3. Learning Journal #2
  4. Individual academic and reflective review essay (25%)

Module 3

Module 3 Specific Learning Outcomes (Online Module)
Seed to Fork: Introduction to Seed Starting and Farm Case Studies
  1. Identify life-habits and basic seed-plant morphology of cultivated crops.
  2. Compare and discuss benefits and drawbacks of various seedling transplant media with respect to the goals of sustainable farming.
  3. Team review of case-study models of regional farming operations: characterize and evaluate farming systems within the agroecosystems framework.
  4. Feedback and review of collected learning journals.

Assigned Readings

  • Pretty, J. (2005). Social capital and the collective management of resources in J. Pretty (Ed) The Earthscan Reader in Sustainable Agriculture (pp. 173-178). London, UK: Earthscan.
  • Riseman, A. (2007). Garden Genetics: Seed Saving. Unpublished workshop manual.
  • Shry, C.L. and Reiley, H.E. (2011). "Unit 6: Seeds" in Introductory horticulture (pp. 74-86). Clifton Park, NY: Delmar Cengage Learning.
  • Selected UBC Farm Agroecological case-study reports and scenarios drawn from faculty-led on-farm research reports.

Five Written and Discussion-Based Assignments for Module #3:

  1. Participation in reading discussion and debate
  2. Concept Quiz #3
  3. Learning journal #3
  4. Team case-study proposal (5%)
  5. Complete team case-study review paper (25%)