Sustainable Agriculture University Profiles
Contributing over $90 billion to the state’s economy, agriculture is big business in Ohio—in fact, it’s the largest industry in the state. While urban sprawl has enveloped agricultural lands throughout much of the nation, the major cities of Ohio, Cleveland, Akron, and Columbus all remain ringed with farmland. “If there ever was a state where local food systems should flourish, Ohio would be such a state,” says Casey Hoy, Professor of Quantitative Ecology at Ohio State University.
Penn State’s Ag Program Prepares Students to Tackle Tough Issues Associated with Sustainable AgricultureApril 5, 2012 | Jessica Vernabe
Pennsylvania State University has its roots in agricultural education, a focus that still remains strong today. The university’s College of Agricultural Sciences offers majors that address today’s issues of sustainability while also working to inform local farming communities about environmental issues, such as those related to the Chesapeake Bay.
Colorado has played a central role in U.S. agriculture since the first permanent European settlement took root in southwest Colorado in the San Luis Valley in 1851. As if to underscore the importance of agriculture to the state, Colorado State University, the state’s only land-grant university, first opened its doors in 1879 under the name Colorado Agriculture College.
Over the past couple of decades, CSU has taken great strides to integrate sustainable and organic agriculture programs into their graduate and undergraduate level agriculture curriculum.
One sustainable agriculture-related program of note at CSU is the Integrated Resource Management program (IRM), which is run by the Western Center for Integrated Resource Management (WCIRM) whose long-term goal is to “improve the competitive position and sustainability of independent livestock producers and the economic and environmental health of rural communities.”
“It’s all based on developing sustainable strategies. It has to be in this day and age or it’s just not feasible,” said Kim Kidwell, associate dean of WSU’s College of Agriculture, Human, and Natural Resources Sciences. “The mindset with all these students is long term viability.”
Cornell University was once called the “The first American university” because of its accessibility to students regardless of race, social circumstances, gender or religion, university officials say.
“That was quite a departure from other institutions at that time,” said Michael Hoffmann, director of the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station and associate dean for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He noted that many other institutions at the time Cornell was founded (1865) were just focused on educating the elite class. “(Cornell) also offered practical classes: technology and agriculture. When you stop to think about it, agriculture was a major industry in the country at that time.”
Now, Cornell University, a land-grant university, is not only focused on teaching agriculture, but sustainable agriculture in particular. Cornell has future generations in mind as it helps students prepare for careers in agriculture. It has various outlets for promoting sustainable agriculture, including its curriculum, research projects and extension activities.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison is busy when it comes to helping mold the future of sustainable agriculture. Officials at the university’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences say thinking about how farming can be done in a more environmentally and socially sustainable is just part of the natural flow of what the college does.
“Nobody talks about crop or animal production without thinking about sustainability and without incorporating it into their research,” said Bill Tracy, UW-Madison’s agronomy department chair and professor who recently stepped down from his post as the college’s interim dean.
Amidst Hotbed of Organic Ag, UMass Amherst Provides Students Foundation for Success in Sustainable Food & FarmingMarch 2, 2012 | Noelle Swan
Even though it is hardly the breadbasket of America, New England has become a hotspot for sustainable agriculture. “We don’t talk about organic farming here, we just assume that the farm’s organic,” says professor John Gerber, chuckling slightly. “The culture is shifting and students are responding to it.”
Gerber’s sustainable food and farming students have been the driving force behind a steady expansion of sustainable agriculture programming at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. As program advisor, Gerber says that he has seen a tremendous uptick in interest in agriculture over the past five years, with the number of majors increasing ten-fold, from five to 50.
The following story marks the start of a new article series in which Seedstock will profile land-grant universities across the United States with a specific focus on the role that sustainable agriculture plays in their curriculums, research projects, student initiatives and more.
In the world of agricultural education, Iowa State University has historical bragging rights.
The university calls itself the nation’s first land-grant university, which refers to the Morrill Act of 1862. The law allowed federal land to be donated to states so the states could sell it and use the proceeds to establish public colleges that focused on agriculture and mechanical arts.