Sustainable Agriculture – Resources & Courses

We just received an awesome email through the COMFOOD listserv at Tufts University, so we thought we would share it with you all. Big thanks to MOSES team for putting this together.

It’s an outline of the premiere Sustainable Agriculture resources & courses in the US at the moment.  It’s a window into the Production & Distribution sector of our food system – one that is crying out for more farmers with a focus on sustainable land use practices.  So, if you’re thinking of going back to school, getting a crash course online, or delving deeper into what sustainable agriculture looks like in c21st – here’s your guide. You can also find out more about existing resources in our Tips & Tricks for Local Food distribution here.


Agro-Ecology & Sustainable Ag. Program (ASAP)
U of I Urbana-Champaign, W503 Turner Hall, MC-047, 1102 S Goodwin Ave   Urbana, IL
217-333-9471 fax 217-244-3219
Facilitates and promotes research and education which protects Illinois natural and human resources and sustains agricultural production.

Black Hawk College
26230 Black Hawk Road   Galva, IL
309-854-1722 fax 309-856-5601
Exploring the use of sound agricultural practices to produce and market alternative agricultural crops. Offers courses and operates a four acre production program that follows USDA organic certification guidelines through certifying agent, Midwest Organic Services Association (MOSA).

Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS)
1535 Observatory Drive   Madison, WI
608-262-8018 fax 608-265-3020
A sustainable agriculture research center at UW-Madison that brings together farmers, researchers, and policy makers to study farming practices and profitability.

Indian Hills Community College
721 N First Street   Centerville, IA
641-856-2143 fax 641-856-3158
This program is designed to provide area landowners, farmers, and young adults with access to land the entrepreneurial skills necessary to start a new or further develop an existing land-based business, and/or gain employment in an agriculturally related field.

Iowa State University, Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture (GPSA)
253 Bessey Hall   Ames, IA
515-294-6518 fax 515-294-1337
The first program to offer the MS and PhD in sustainable agriculture, the GPSA emphasizes experiential learning through an interdisciplinary curriculum. Students acquire depth of knowledge as well as systems-level thinking while pursuing advanced research that transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries.

Iowa State University, Dept of Agronomy
1126J Agronomy Hall   Ames, IA
515-294-3846 fax 515-294-8146
Agronomy at ISU is dedicated to maintaining a systems approach to agriculture. Our undergraduate program in Agronomy includes an Agroecology option that has been of high interest to students who want to study organic and sustainable agriculture.

Iowa State University, Organic Ag Program
106 Horticulture Hall   Ames, IA
515-294-7069 fax 515-294-0730
Dr. Delate’s position in ISU Extension is devoted to organic agriculture. ISU Extension also offers fact sheets and other materials on sustainable agriculture.

Lake Land College
5001 Lake Land Blvd   Mattoon, IL
217-234-5569 fax 217-234-5200
This program is designed for students planning a career in alternative agriculture production. Emphasis on the fundamentals of agroecology, incorporation of biological pest management, and sustainable crop and livestock production along with the concepts of direct marketing.

Maharishi University of Management, Sustainable Living Dept
Dr Keith Wallace Drive   Fairfield, IA
641-472-7000 x 1109 fax 641-472-1235
A rapidly expanding sustainable living undergraduate program gives students understanding and skills to develop sustainable systems and communities to create a more sustainable world. Courses cover policy, renewable energy, ecology, organic and community supported agriculture, and green design and building, etc.

Marshalltown Community College – Entrepreneurial & Diversified Agriculture Program
3700 S. Center Street   Marshalltown, IA
This program offers one year certificates and two year degrees. Included on campus is a 140 acre farm used for demonstration to students and new farmers who wish to begin farming on site.

Michigan State University Extension
303 Natural Resources CAARS   East Lansing, MI
517-353-3543 fax 517-353-3834
The C.S. Mott Group at MSU engages communities in applied research and outreach that promote sustainable food systems to improve access to and availability of healthy, locally-produced food. There is a focus on organic farming approaches for vegetables and field crops.

Michigan State University W.K. Kellogg Biological Station
3700 E Gull Lake Drive   Hickory Corners, MI
269-671-2341 fax 269-671-2351
Year-round biological field station conducting research on the ecology of managed and unmanaged systems that supports educational and extension/outreach programs, including sustainable agricultural practices for row-crop production (conventional and organic), cover crops, grazed pastures, and biofuels.

Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA)
1991 Upper Buford Circle   St Paul, MN
612-625-8235 fax 612-625-1268
Bringing together the diverse interests of the agricultural community and the University to promote sustainable agriculture.

North Dakota State University – Carrington Research Extension Center
PO Box 219   Carrington, ND
701-652-2951 fax 701-652-2055
Researches crop and animal ecosystems to help family farms maintain profitability. Specializing in ruminants and all crop production.

North Dakota State University – Dickinson Research Extension Center
1041 State Avenue   Dickinson, ND
701-483-2348 ext. 113 fax 701-483-2073
SARE state coordinator for both North and South Dakotas.

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College
2740 W Mason St, PO Box 19042   Green Bay, WI
Offers accredited, on-line and in-person courses to gain skills in organic agriculture. Courses were developed through process that includes expert farmers working in organics. The courses take you through step-by-step learning with printed materials, short lectures, media, demos, and classroom discussion.

University of California – Santa Cruz – Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems
1156 High Street   Santa Cruz, CA
831-459-3240 fax 831-459-2799
A six-month, full time education program held at the 25-acre Farm and 3-acre Alan Chadwick Garden on the UC Santa Cruz campus. Course includes classroom instruction, in-field training, and hands-on experience in the gardens, greenhouses, orchards, fields, and marketing outlets.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Crop Sciences
1201 W Gregory Dr   Urbana, IL
217-621-7974 fax 217-333-4582
Developing research and outreach programs on cover cropping, weed management in organic farming systems. Coordinating on-farm research, organic farm tours.

University of Minnesota-Southwest Research and Outreach Center (SWROC)
23669 130th St   Lamberton, MN
507-752-7372 fax 507-752-5097
The U of MN’s Organic Ecology Program explores the science of organic agriculture through on-farm and experiment station research; variety trials; organic field days; workshops; publications; and the Organic Ecology website.

University of Minnesota, Applied Plant Sciences Graduate Program
1991 Upper Buford Circle   St. Paul, MN
612-625-4742 fax 612-625-1268
Biological solutions to real-world problems come to life in the Applied Plant Sciences graduate program. We offer Undergraduate, Minor, M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in one or more of the following specializations: Sustainable Agriculture; Agronomy/Agroecology; Horticultural Science; Plant Breeding/Molecular Genetics; Applied Plant Sciences.

University of Wisconsin – Madison, Agroecology Program
1525 Observatory Dr   Madison, WI
We seek to foster the development of the facilitators, researchers, and practitioners of a more equitable and resource-efficient agriculture. Our curriculum addresses agriculture as the simultaneously biophysical and social enterprise that it is.

University of Wisconsin – River Falls, Plant & Earth Science Dept
410 S 3rd St   River Falls, WI
715-425-3941 fax 715-425-3785
UWRF’s Sustainable Agriculture option within the Crop and Soil Science major promotes land productivity, environmental stewardship, economic practicality and rural community viability. Two relevant minors are now available to students as well: Sustainable Agriculture and Sustainable Studies.


University of Minnesota Duluth – Continuing Education
104 Darland Administration Bldg, 1049 University Drive, Duluth, MN 55812-3011
The Sustainable Food Systems certificate is self paced and equivalent to 50 hours. This includes the time it takes to read, view and apply the concepts through the activities provided in each module. If you register for the certificate you will have access to the website for one year after registration. If you register for individual modules, you will have access for six months. If you are unable to complete the certificate / modules within these timeframes, your access will be cancelled and you must re-register if you wish to continue.

A Visit with the Dirt Doctor

I’m sitting here in my campervan with a belly full of the tastiest vegetables one can grow, produce that’s literally fit for a prince. That’s because I’m on my return trip from a visit to the far south of NZ, to Jim O’Gorman’s farmlet in the sea-side town of Kakanui, just South of Oamaru. Jim is also known as “The Dirt Doctor” and it was many of his ideas that contributed to the inspiration behind Bucky Box over a year ago.

Jim lives simply, very simply. His house is a 9.9 square metre hut with no power, phone let alone luxuries such as a inside toilet. He came onto this property 18 years ago, looking for the most toxic soil he could find to demonstrate something wonderful…

His was an experiment in healing the soil. And doing it “from nothing, with nothing” as he likes to say. What he has today required no input of resources or investment, it was created from what he found on the land and by working smart.

When he arrived the soil was so hard from previous years of chemical farming that the ground would break steel machinery. Jim holds up to me a rusty relic he found buried on his property, it’s a curved piece of metal an inch thick, it used to be part of a tractor tool to break up the ground, “it’s been warped and snapped off by the soil” Jim tells me with gusto.

In the first two years they’d greet Jim at the local hardware store with, “looking for another spade handle?”, but in those two years he managed to revive his soil. He calls his techniques biological farming, that is agriculture based on an intimate knowledge of the complex microbial eco-system that keeps our soil vibrant. The techniques seem quite radically different from standard organic practices, he proudly states “It’s 15 years ahead of existing organic farming”. Indeed Jim is considered one of the world’s top 10 in his field.

Today Jim produces from 1,000 square metres of land $45,000 of premium produce that goes out to our country’s best restaurants. “The executive chef from Government House requested my produce to feed Prince William”, Jim tells me with a smile.

His yields are 20% higher than equivalent chemical farming practices, all without costly and damaging nitrate fertilisers and pesticides.

That’s a small sentence, read it again, as the implications are vast. In one sweep, it discards the myth that chemical farming is needed to feed our growing population, and holds promise that we can mitigate 33% of the world’s carbon emissions for which industrialised agriculture is responsible for. That’s not even mentioning a massive reduction in oil consumption, around 15% of the world’s oil is used in fertiliser production from memory.

Needless to say, we at Bucky Box see his work as a important part of the puzzle to a new food system and are laying down a commitment in helping him spread his technology worldwide.

Jim O’Gorman runs regular workshops through his charitable organisation, including The Urban Eden program where one can feed a family of four from 10 square metres of land with no more than half an hour in the garden a week. Contact details are on their website.

Local & Friendly Food Champion showcase: Food Connect Foundation

We’re extremely pleased to announce the second in a stream of partnerships with local & friendly food champions!

Our good friends at Food Connect in Australia are known around the world for the fantastic work they’ve done on creating a sustainable, fair, organic approach to local food distribution.

The two schemes already running in Australia work on a mix of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and Vege Box scheme to get the food from the rural producers to their ‘city cousins’ where towns people pick up their food.  We’re supporting the Foundation side of their work – “the Food Connect Foundation supports entrepreneurship that promotes soil fertility, appropriate scale organic farming and small food enterprises”.

If you haven’t already seen Rob Pekin, the founder of Food Connect, speaking at TEDxBrisbane – here’s his 18 minutes of heart & reason:

The back story: in the early stages here at Bucky Box we decided to forego any marketing budget, and instead work with the best of the local & friendly food champions around the world and give our customers the chance to nominate where these funds will go. We see that these are the individuals & organisations who are making significant headway in catalysing, educating & advocating for a fair, friendly, local food system. We support their work to the hilt.

A man and his local vegetables - Food Connect CSA ethical enterprise

The Food Buzz

It’s been a great couple of days in the Bucky Box camp, with some exciting research and chatter continuing as designs are finalised, code is written, and decisions are made.

Image from

Today we spotted an interesting project regarding the cross over of new technology and the agricultural industry: Hacking the Food System.

It’ll be a global conversation, using social media as well as a couple of offline conversations which are being convened.

We can think of plenty of topics which might come up in conversation – food distribution is what we’re working on, but traceability and visibility of where & how food is produced seems to be up there, as well as how the information now flowing into social media can be shared, analysed & used to learn more about the food system we rely on.

We’re looking forward to being involved in the conversation – we hope you will be too.

As web & software developers, we have a keen interest in how this area starts to take shape, so applause to Danielle Gould (@dhgisme) for pulling this together.  It’ll be a great opportunity for the world to come together to talk about some of the opportunities that this emerging intersection will have for the global food system.

In further social media finds this week, we’ve been enjoying the following;

PopTech 2009: Michael Pollan from PopTech on Vimeo.


How do these genetically-engineered crops compare to non-modified crops? (Photo: Peter Blanchard/Creative Commons)

The TakePart food report titled “What is Big Ag keeping from you?

And finally, hearty conversations with Food Connect‘s founder, Rob Pekin, about Food Connect Foundation’s mission, and calls from around the world to replicate what they’ve been doing for the last 10 years. Here’s his TED talk in case you’ve not seen it already:

Bucky Box goes to the Farm

Visiting CSA Farm for Bucky Box ResearchHere at Bucky Box, we sometimes need to remind ourselves why we’re getting involved in this project to build the tools for a better food system, so on Monday we decided to take a trip out to our local CSA, and spend some time with the farmers who’re getting their hands dirty to keep us fed, and look after the land.

We’re based in Wellington, New Zealand, so we took a trip about an hour and a half out of town to one of the premier growing regions close to us – the Wairarapa.

Luckily we have some good friends who run a CSA here in Wellington, so we took them along with us to meet Frank & Josje who made us really welcome at Wairarapa Eco Farm – a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm supporting the Wellington region.

Discussing ups and downs of Community Supported AgricultureWe had some quality conversations about the ups and downs of CSA’s, which are being felt all over the world as the movement spreads, but it was great to see the passion Josje had to make it work, and to involve people in the growing of food and education around sustainable organic practices.

We really see some huge benefits for CSA’s to be one of the many solutions to a more people & planet friendly food system – one which provides more resiliency, closer connections, and lower food miles.  There’s some great resources on CSA’s here if you’re interested (courtesy of Making Local Food Work in the UK).

A big thanks to Frank & Josje for spending some time with us which will help us to continue to build the best software possible for the local food movements around the world – for making us welcome at your beautiful farm, sharing stories and your passion for reconnecting our communities with the food we eat.

Check out Simply Good Food – the Wellington CSA site here (now also operating in Palmerston North!).

Take a glimpse at our full album of CSA Wellington photos here.

Growing the greens for vege box delivery

My really personal reasons for doing Bucky Box

I’ve been crashing at Sam’s place this week, Sam’s our community connector here at Bucky Box. We’ve been having some awesomely choice (welcome to Kiwi-speak) and exciting conversations about values, sustainability, and fixing broken systems… and the other night I let slip my two completely personal reasons why I find myself doing Bucky Box.

Maybe the most powerful of the two is simply about getting natural and healthy food to people. It probably doesn’t sound all that mind blowing to you, and it’s probably quite obvious, but there’s a nuance to it for me… You see, I’ve come to understand what we eat affects how we think. If we eat chemical food, we think industrially, eat natural foods we tend to think more environmentally. My hope is if we can improve the quality of food that enters our bodies, we can think in a more connected nature to our planet.

Which leads me to my second reason, which is environmental. Seven years ago, when I made a commitment to do something environmental it was about doing something ethical and cool, after all I was running a promising and profitable startup and I thought myself to be really cool. The reasons have matured a bit now, and at the risk of sounding like a raving tree hugging hippy (Hi Sam! 🙂 ), I see our planet as living and breathing, just like a life long friend, I’ve come to feel part of her and so my internal motivations have become deeper, quieter and yet stronger.

So those are my reasons, to all you awesome people doing good work in this area of fixing our food system, I’d love to hear what your reasons are. Drop us a comment!