This course critically examines the global agroecological food system. We will follow the commodity chain of food, beginning with food production and agriculture; move on to processing, transport and marketing; and then finally to the politics of food consumption.

Non-GMO-300x225This course does not aim merely to describe the current food system, nor does it adopt a neutral or ‘objective’ stance on it. Rather, the course puts forth a particular argument: it begins from the premise that the current globalized, industrial agro-food system creates profound problems for environmental degradation, animal welfare, worker safety, and consumer health. Moreover, the course takes as axiomatic that agro-food systems should promote social justice and environmental sustainability. As such, I will not attempt to provide ‘both sides’ of the food system story – we will take a critical stance throughout. (For the other side, you merely have to turn on the TV, go to the supermarket, or eat at McDonalds. We are inundated with this side of the story every day, often without even being aware of it.) The goals of this course, then, are rather simple: to provide a clearer, more critical understanding of the global agro-food system, and to explore various alternatives and their viability.

The course will involve some field trips and ‘field assignments’ intended to get you out into the community, to examine agroecological food issues in and around Vermont. Vermont is a laboratory for food issues. It is one of the most important agricultural regions in the country and is dominated by relatively small family farms and diverse production systems that include apples, honey, corn, hay, greenhouse & nursery products, maple syrup, fruits and vegetables, dairy products, eggs and fiber products. The University of Vermont is the state’s land-grant institution, and one of the leading agricultural research centers in the country. Regional farmer’s market attracts a diversity of people from New England (both vendors and customers), and there are a large number of alternative food networks such as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, community gardens, food justice organizations and Coops.

But Vermont is also relatively poor: food insecurity is common and many rely on food assistance on a regular basis. Vermont’s obesity rates was 28.6% of the population in 2013 and rising, and is closely tied to poor nutrition. In the class, we will explore these issues on a first-hand basis, in the context of broader national and international processes and relationships.

Syllabus: Our Global Society and Acroecology_Darryl Benjamin_FINAL