Course code:



I - Introductory

Class size limit:


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Typically offered:


US consumers are bombarded by a dizzying array of environmental and moral choices when purchasing food-organic and beyond organic, free-range and cage-free, fair trade, natural, grass-fed, and certified sustainable seafood. The list goes on. Responsible and healthy choices become difficult when faced with so many vague and varying options. This course asks the question: what do these labels actually mean, what are the requirements for certification, and do these alternatives actually address social justice and sustainability in our food system? In essence, do these labels and movements offer true alternatives to our current food system? Drawing primarily on readings, and complemented by a field trip and guest lectures from visiting policy experts, we will answer these questions as a class. By exploring various alternative agricultural movements from the US and beyond—such as permaculture, organic and biodynamic agriculture, and communal farming—we will identify factors that contribute to equitable, healthy, sustainable food systems. We will also examine formal agricultural and fisheries policy (including the US Farm Bill, agricultural subsidies, federal fisheries regulations, and food safety and health regulations), as well as informal policy (such as norms in fishing communities, community food movements, and food activism). This course structure will allow us to evaluate multiple levels of food reform, including consumer, producer, and state sponsored alternatives. During the course we will take a field trip to a meeting of a local food producers’ association to observe an informal policy process in action. Students will be evaluated based on participation in class discussions, weekly reading responses, a mid-term paper, and a final group presentation on an agricultural policy topic of their choice.

Always visit the Registrar's Office for the official course catalog and schedules.