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 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

  • Understanding of the key issues in sustainable agriculture and agroecology
  • Understanding the biological processes within agroecosystems
  • Knowledge of significant plants used in agroforests and agroecological farms
  • Understanding of the sociological dynamics related to agriculture for both upland and lowland peoples of Northern Thailand
  • Ability to successfully carry out the basic tasks related to sustainable agriculture, including composting, natural pesticide production, gardening skills and related tasks
  • Biological field survey methods, especially as related to agroforests and integrated farming
  • Proficiency with the tools of field research, including farm and village survey techniques, and the ability to carry out basic surveys in Thai
  • Knowledge of the struggles related to creating sustainable communities and people’s movements related to sustainable agriculture



    BLOCK 2

    Course Title

    Sustainable Food Systems: Social and Biological Factors in Sustainable Agriculture (ECODEV 401)


    4 Credits

    Academic Fields




    Agroecology surveys of fields and forests

    Work in gardens and fields

    Organic composting

    Learn plant propagation

    Selling vegetables in the market with host families

    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]

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