Program Overview

Sustainable Food Systems Course

This course examines in depth food systems, with a specific focus on small holder sustainable agriculture. In addition we also learn about the production and processing of coffee, cacao, and medicinal cannabis during this course.

These issues form the core of sustainability, and include such topics as ecology and natural resource management, food supply, permaculture, and the role of biological and sociological systems in global sustainability. Seminars and discussions  take place “in context” to the learning— i.e. reading about agroforestry, then going into an agroforest to study the plants growing there.  This is—literally—a “hands on” course. Students will get muddy tramping through the fields and blisters from working on the farm.

In addition to our focus on small holder tropical agriculture, we also study the emerging cash crops of coffee, cacao, and cannabis in Thailand.  Chiang Mai is emerging as a center for artisanal coffee and chocolate, and students will get an opportunity to visit farms and cafes.  We will also be studying cannabis production, as Thailand is the first country in Asia to legalize medicinal cannabis.

Learning Outcomes

  • Understand the major issues in sustainable food systems.
  • Understand the major ecological, biological and social challenges to sustainable agriculture.
  • Have specific knowledge of agriculture and its ecological and social context in both upland and lowland Thailand and Southeast Asia.
  • Understand the role cash crops play in small landholding farmers in Northern Thailand including a deeper understanding of the ecology and economics of coffee, cacao, and medicinal cannabis.
  • Mastery of field research methods for both natural science and social science inquiries into sustainable food systems.


    BLOCK 2

    Course Title

    Sustainable Food Systems: Social and Biological Factors in Sustainable Agriculture (BIO/SOC 310)


    4 Credits

    Academic Fields



    Agroecology surveys of fields and forests

    Work in gardens and fields

    Organic composting

    Learn plant propagation

    Extensive field research on biodiversity, edible plant species, organic polyculture farms, and agroforests

    Day and evening talks with villagers and agriculture development workers

    Experiential learning in tribal (Palong/Lahu/Karen) villages and lowland (Khon Müang) villages


    Extensive hiking while in the villages (to upland fields, etc.)

    Travel out to village sites and study areas


    Chiang Mai Province

    Application Deadlines

    Semester Application Deadlines: Fall – March 15 / Spring – October 15

    Summer Application Deadline: April 1

    After the deadline we will accept students on a space available basis, so contact us at [email protected]

    • × Thanks for getting in touch!

    Your privacy is important to us. Read our privacy policy.