Summer Semester (May 20 – June 28, 2019)

3 credits

Instructor – Jennifer Santry
Contact –

Course Description
This course explores the principles of sustainable agriculture for animal, crop, and garden production. We will study the ethical, practical and scientific aspects of agricultural sustainability including economic, social and environmental impacts of food and farming. We will use system thinking tools to compare industrial and ecological agriculture, and ultimately each student will develop a plan for a sustainable farming system based on personal and learned philosophies and forms.

In this introduction to sustainable agriculture, we’ll be delving into the essential production practices that will empower students to make a farm, homestead, or garden a reality or to make current agricultural endeavors more sustainable, efficient, and profitable. Students will learn sustainable theory and be able to apply this to the nuts and bolts of market gardens, food forests, livestock management, and farm finances.

Student Learning Objectives

Our goal by the end of this course is for students to:

  1. Define terminology and concepts related to sustainable farming practices.
  2. Describe the ecological, economical, and social implications of agricultural practices.
  3. Identify theories and forms of sustainable agriculture.
  4. Articulate principles and strategies of sustainable agriculture.
  5. Utilize a systems approach to analyze agriculture in your own backyard and/or community.
  6. Apply best practices for basic soil, crop, watershed, & livestock management.
  7. Identify resources for solving problems facing farmers, ranchers, gardeners, and consumers in order to reduce waste and energy consumption in agriculture.
  8. Describe strategies to increase profit and efficiency for sustainable producers.
  9. Design productive and ecologically sound land use plans.
  10. Expand consumer awareness and support of ethical alternatives.

Course Book
Restoration Agriculture: Real-World Permaculture for Farmers by Mark Shepard – ISBN 978-1601730350. Additionally, there will be various assigned readings posted to Blackboard for each weekly module.

Grades will be assessed as follows:

6 Discussions (“Food Blog”) 36 points
2 Online Activities/Assignments 30 points
4 Quizzes 14 points
Final Project 20 points
TOTAL POINTS 100 points

Course Assessments: Each week’s assignments will be posted with details on Blackboard.



Online Discussions – “Food Blog”

Each week’s module (videos, readings…) are expected to be completed before you participate in online discussions. Using our online forum, answer discussion questions and complete assignments by posting on the class “Food Blog.” Discussion posts are due Wednesday by midnight (5 points). Comment on at least one of your peer’s posts by Saturday at midnight (1 point). 36
Activities & Assignments There will be two online activities or assignments in addition to weekly discussions. Each assignment will be detailed in Blackboard with a due date – 15 points each.


Assignment 1 – Farmer Interview

Assignment 2 – Case Study on Managing the Whole System




There will be four online quizzes throughout the course that will assess your understanding of the course materials. Quiz questions will be taken directly from assigned readings, online presentations, and videos. Each quiz is worth 3.5 points. 14


Sustainable Farm Management Plan

Design and present your own farm agro-ecosystem. Throughout the course, you’ll be working on milestones that will help you complete your final project for this course – a Sustainable Farm Management Plan. This plan is for a self-designed farm for your family, a business, or a nonprofit organization managing local food projects in your community. Again, the components of your plan will be developed week by week as we address each topic. Components will include: goals, a fertility management plan, use of animals, and marketing and budgeting. Your paper is worth 15 points and your presentation is worth 5 points. 20

Course Outline and Weekly Topics:

  • Module 1: Introduction and Principles of Sustainable Agriculture
  • Module 2: Water, Energy, Soil and Plants
  • Module 3: Fertility, Animal Production Practices & Livestock Systems
  • Module 4: Organic Agriculture, Holistic Management, & Permaculture and Polyculture
  • Module 5: Restoration Agriculture, Biodynamic and Nature Farming, & Agroforestry and Agroecology
  • Module 6: Financial Planning, Value Added, & Ag Economics

Academic Honesty

No form of cheating, plagiarism, fabrication, or facilitating of dishonesty will be condoned in the University community. Academic dishonesty includes but is not limited to:

  • Cheating – intentional use or attempted use of trickery, artifice, deception, breach of confidence, fraud and/or misrepresentation of one’s academic work
  • Fabrication – intentional and unauthorized falsification and/or invention of any information or citation in any academic exercise
  • Plagiarism – knowingly representing the words or ideas of another as one’s own work in any academic exercise. This includes submitting without citation, in whole or in part, prewritten term papers of another or the research of another, including but not limited to commercial vendors who sell or distribute such materials
  • Facilitating dishonesty – knowingly helping or attempting to help another commit an act of academic dishonesty, including substituting for another in an examination, or allowing others to represent as their own one’s papers, reports, or academic works

Sanctions may be imposed on any student who has committed an act of academic dishonesty. Any person who has reason to believe that a student has committed academic dishonesty should bring such information to the attention of the course instructor as soon as possible. Formal definitions of academic dishonesty, examples of various forms of dishonesty, and the procedures which faculty must follow to penalize dishonesty are contained in the Academic Honesty Policy.


This class fulfills requirements for all three of the online programs offered by the University of Massachusetts Stockbridge School of Agriculture in Sustainable Food and Farming: