Interdisciplinary and Multilevel Approach to Organic and Sustainable Agriculture Education at North Carolina State University

in HortTechnology
Authors:
M.S. SchroederDepartment of Crop Science, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695.

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N.G. CreamerDepartment of Horticultural Science, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695.

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H.M LinkerDepartment of Crop Science and Entomology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695.

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J.P. MuellerDepartment of Crop Science, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695.

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P. RzewnickiDepartment of Horticultural Science, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695.

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There is an increasing demand for education in organic and sustainable agriculture from undergraduates, graduate students and extension agents. In this paper, we discuss highlights and evaluations of a multilevel approach to education currently being developed at North Carolina State University (NCSU) that integrates interdisciplinary training in organic and sustainable agriculture and the related discipline of agroecology through a variety of programs for undergraduate students, graduate students, and extension agents. These educational programs are possible because of a committed interdisciplinary faculty team and the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, a facility dedicated to sustainable and organic agriculture research, education, and outreach. Undergraduate programs include an inquiry-based sustainable agriculture summer internship program, a sustainable agriculture apprenticeship program, and an interdisciplinary agroecology minor that includes two newly developed courses in agroecology and a web-based agroecology course. Research projects and a diversity of courses focusing on aspects of sustainable and organic agriculture are available at NCSU for graduate students and a PhD sustainable agriculture minor is under development. A series of workshops on organic systems training offered as a graduate-level course at NCSU for extension agents is also described. Connecting experiential training to a strong interdisciplinary academic curriculum in organic and sustainable agriculture was a primary objective and a common element across all programs. We believe the NCSU educational approach and programs described here may offer insights for other land grant universities considering developing multilevel sustainable agriculture educational programs.

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