Sustainable Agriculture^

^Sustainable Food Systems Track course

Instructor: Jeff Potent

Fulfills requirement: Food Systems (FS) OR Environmental Policy, Management, and Finance (EPMF)
Day: Tuesday
Dates: April 9, 16, 23, 30, May 7 (Module 3, 5 sessions)
Time: 6:10 – 8:10 PM
Room location: TBD
Course number: ENVB 0381 N

Course Description

Concern about the health risks and questionable nutritional value associated with modern food systems, as well as other damaging social and environmental impacts, has raised public concerns across society in both the U.S. and abroad. Issues associated with prevailing farming, ranching ,and food processing practices include: climate change; habitat and biodiversity loss; widespread use of GMO crops and pesticides; water pollution and over exploitation; unfair and dangerous labor practices; and low and unstable farmer incomes and associated financial insecurity.

Fortunately, these far-reaching and often severe consequences of business as usual are encouraging innovative and paradigm-shifting approaches in all subsectors of the established agricultural industry, as well as among new entrants and an ever-growing array of agricultural stakeholders. Agribusiness corporations, food processors, retailers, trade associations, governmental agencies and universities are, albeit to varying degrees, working to advance best practices, reformulating products (including offering organic options), acquiring sustainable agriculture startups, and changing sourcing policies and supply chain relationships. At the local scale, family farmers, communities, and consumers, impatient with sometimes incrementalist approaches, are taking matters into their own hands by embracing regenerative and resilient farming systems, creating business networks, incentives, and markets for local farm products, and raising knowledge and awareness about this critically-needed transformation.

While these approaches are emerging in response to a common set of issues, actions are manifesting in diverse ways in response to unique perspectives, objectives, and conditions. This course will examine this exciting and hopeful array of groundbreaking approaches to sustainable agriculture, as well as the emerging trends, obstacles, anticipated outcomes, and inherent contradictions and controversies surrounding the leading approaches. We will also engage in lively discussions on the scope and scale of the significant challenges that lie ahead for the agricultural sector and seek to uncover cause for optimism.

About the Instructor

Jeff Potent develops and teaches courses in corporate sustainable development, systems theory, ecosystem services, and sustainable agriculture. He also consults and speaks publicly on corporate and agricultural sustainability and water quality. Mr. Potent formerly led corporate partnerships for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Office of Water in Washington DC, advancing sustainable and market-based approaches to environmental protection. Earlier in his career, he served as EPA/US Department of Agriculture (USDA) liaison, facilitating collaboration among Land Grant Universities, EPA, USDA, and other agencies and academic institutions. In 2001, he established the regional component of the USDA National Integrated Water Quality Program, serving as regional coordinator and member of the program’s national leadership team. Before that, he led an energy and environmental engineering consulting practice, managed pollution prevention programs for a large environmental agency, and planned satellite and cable infrastructure for a global telecommunications corporation.