Welcome to Toward a Sustainable Agriculture, a curriculum for high school students!

About this Curriculum

This curriculum is developed by the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS). Development of this curriculum was funded in part by a grant from the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE).

The curriculum is still under development. Currently, only the first five modules are available. We hope to have module VI available by the end of 2011. In addition, we plan to update and add materials to all the modules as time and resources allow.

We welcome suggestions for improvement from teachers, farmers, students, and others with interest and knowledge in the area of sustainable agriculture. Contact Diane Mayerfeld with your comments.

The curriculum is divided into six different modules: an introductory module and five more narrowly focused modules. Each module is designed to be taught in as little as 5 hours of class time (or one week), though if you choose to use all the material in the module, it will take longer. The modules are designed to be taught independently, however, we strongly recommend that teachers ensure that their students are familiar with the basic concepts covered in Module I before proceeding to any of the other modules. These basic concepts can be introduced (or reviewed) in as little as two hours.

The following key themes inform the whole curriculum:

  1. Sustainable agriculture addresses social, environmental, and economic impacts.
  2. Food system and agroecosystem analysis offer critical theoretical frameworks for understanding agriculture.
  3. Sustainable agriculture is defined and driven by goals. Practices are sustainable only insofar as they support those goals. Thus the same practice may be sustainable in one context and unsustainable in another.
  4. Real world examples provide the best opportunities for understanding the potential and the challenges of sustainable agriculture. The curriculum provides some case study examples, but teachers are strongly encouraged to introduce students to people engaged in sustainable agriculture or food businesses in their immediate area.

Educators are welcome to adapt and reproduce sections of the curriculum for non-commercial use.

Many people helped with the development of this curriculum. Special thanks are due to the following individuals:

Louis Beck, teacher, Union High School near Waterloo, Iowa
Calvin Buowkamp, teacher, Pardeeville, Wisconsin
Dela Ends, farmer, Brodhead, Wisconsin
Dean Gagnon, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction
Janet Gamble, Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, East Troy, Wisconsin
Shelly Gradwell, Practical Farmers of Iowa
Dale Gruis, Iowa Department of Education
Laura Krouse, farmer and professor at Cornell College, Mt. Vernon, Iowa
Gary Lake, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Dave Lubben, farmer, Monticello, Iowa
Douglas Maxwell, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Brad Meyer, Practical Farmers of Iowa
Jodi Minzlaff, student, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Shellie Orngard, Iowa State University
Bert Paris, farmer, Belleville, Wisconsin
Dennis Uppena, teacher, Cassville, Wisconsin
Mark Voss, teacher, Middleton, Wisconsin
All the staff at CIAS, including Cris Carusi, Dick Cates, Susan Church, Trish Haza, John Hendrickson, Angela Martinsen, Brent McCown, Ruth McNair, Michelle Miller, Don Schuster, and Steve Stevenson.

The first version of Toward a Sustainable Agriculture was published by the Wisconsin Rural Development Center and CIAS in 1991. This curriculum draws some ideas and activities from the original publication.