Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Food systems course: the booklist

SNRAS staff member and managing editor Deirdre Helfferich is taking a course this semester taught by Craig Gerlach, Comparative Farming and Sustainable Food Systems. This is a 400-level undergraduate class cross-listed in geography, natural resources management, and cross-cultural studies. Here's the description:
This exciting course explores the principles of food systems geography and food security, with cross-cultural examinations of dietary traditions, poverty, hunger, equity, and food access and distribution. What can be done about “real world” food, farming, and agricultural problems? Where is the contemporary agroecological system strong or weak with respect to restoration and renewability? How can we be better educated and more innovative in dealing with food production, distribution, access, and the promotion of ecosystem health? We will compare agricultural systems in the context of social, ecological, and economic sustainability. Alaska and other high-latitude food systems will be considered, including country food, wild game harvest, and rural to urban nutrition transition.
She will blog regularly on the course here and on her personal blog, sharing her impressions and information from the class.


I've been working at SNRAS since 2001, and over the last decade have become more and more interested in food and agriculture issues. Partly this grew out of personal interest in gardening and environmentalism—the two interests merged for me when I first discovered the concepts of heirloom strains and commercially available organic seed in 1991—and partly out of my husband's and my enrollment with Calypso Farm & Ecology Center's CSA program starting in 2001. During the last 20 years I've read books on guerilla gardening, eating locally, heirloom varieties of garden plants and domestic animals, outré vegetables and fruits (at least, not well known in your average Alaska supermarket), chili peppers, the spirituality of gardening, urban farming, organic gardening, industrial meat processing, seed saving, and most recently, food policy and politics. I've never taken any courses or even workshops on gardening or farming or ecology—even though I've had the opportunity and there have been some mighty interesting looking classes here at SNRAS—until now.

Part of my work with the school involves the Alaska Food Policy Council, and I've been learning quite a bit about food systems. It has been quite fascinating; so, when I first learned that this class would be offered, I determined to immerse myself in the subject. (We'll be getting our syllabus the first day of class (this Thursday) but here's a draft (PDF) to give you a more detailed look at the course.) I haven't taken a 400-level class since 1998 (the year I graduated from UAF, with a bachelor's in foreign languages), and frankly, I'm finding the idea a little daunting. It's going to be a good class, and the booklist (both required and suggested texts) looks great.

Here are some of the ones that seemed especially intriguing (in order of publication):
I'm a book nut, so I'm buying quite a few of the suggested texts as well as the four or so required ones. I have the feeling I'm going to be short on sleep this semester…

No comments: