Thursday, June 23, 2016

SNRE to offer new sustainable agriculture minor

UAF students visit the Northern Lights Dairy in Delta Junction as part of a
natural resources management field tour, which included agricultural sites.

Starting this fall, UAF students may earn a minor in sustainable agriculture through the School of Natural Resources and Extension.

Horticulture Professor Meriam Karlsson, who heads the SNRE Agriculture and Horticulture Department, said the university approved the new minor in May.

“It’s a good addition,” she said. “There are a lot of concerns and interest in food security, local production and the use of sustainable production methods. This is a trend nationwide, although the remoteness and environmentally challenging conditions make sustainable agriculture especially relevant to Alaska.”

SNRE already offers several agricultural classes as part of its natural resources management degree. Karlsson said many universities have degrees in sustainable agriculture and offering the minor is the first step in addressing the demand here. She said the multidisciplinary nature of sustainable agriculture has broad appeal and is expected to attract students from other areas, such as biology, geography, anthropology, northern studies and business.

The school used to offer concentrations in agriculture and forestry within the Bachelor of Science degree in natural resources management. In 2014, the degree was revamped, eliminating the concentrations. A minor in forest management was approved and available in 2015.

Karlsson said the sustainable agriculture courses teach an understanding of sustainability science in global and U.S. agriculture. Students learn concepts and techniques that are environmentally and socially sound, as well as profitable, for agriculture and food production.

Students wishing to receive the sustainable agriculture minor must complete a minimum of 18 credits. The required classes are Natural Resources Conservation and Policy, Principles of Sustainable Agriculture and Introduction to Natural Resource Economics. Students also need to complete three additional classes from a list that includes introductory plant and animal science, soils and the environment, environmental ethics and environmental decision making.

Agriculture was one of five fields of study offered at the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines (now University of Alaska Fairbanks) when it opened in 1922.

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