An Interdisciplinary Graduate Program
What is sustainable agriculture?
Sustainable agriculture has been described by many people in many ways; however, some of the important
characteristics of a sustainable agricultural system are satisfying the food and income requirements
of farmers, providing people with a healthy and affordable diet, protecting environmental quality
and human health, and contributing to the vitality of rural and urban communities.
Why a graduate program in sustainable agriculture?
Agriculture in the 21st Century faces important environmental, social, agronomic, and
philosophical challenges. These challenges are interconnected and can best be addressed
using an interdisciplinary approach.
Most agricultural research and teaching takes place within traditional academic boundaries.
Innovative mechanisms can build bridges among fields of knowledge and people while developing
practical solutions to sustainability problems in agriculture. A broad perspective helps integrate
traditional production disciplines with ecology and environmental sciences, social sciences,
and the humanities.
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Iowa is the natural location for the nation's first comprehensive graduate program in sustainable
agriculture. It is in the center of one of the most productive, rain-fed agricultural regions in
the world. It is a leader in the production of livestock, feed, food, and biomass crops used for
energy production, plus innovations in agricultural marketing and business development.
Iowa is the home of visionary leaders in agriculture and conservation, such as Aldo Leopold,
Henry A. Wallace, George Washington Carver, Ada Hayden, Ding Darling.
Why Iowa State University?
As the nation's first land-grant university, it is appropriate that Iowa
State University offer this visionary graduate program in sustainable agriculture. Iowa State has
a long history of "firsts" that established it as a place where innovative research,
teaching, and outreach programs make a difference.
Some of those firsts include:
- In 1862, Iowa became the first state to enter the nation's system of
land-grant universities and designated the Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm as
its land-grant institution.
- Iowa State offered the nation's first courses in forestry (1874) and dairy science (1880), the
first Master of Science degree in farm mechanics (1902), and the nation's first professional agricultural
engineering curriculum (1905).
- In 1991, Iowa State created the world's first university Bioethics Institute to address ethical
issues in the life sciences.
- In 1996, Iowa State's College of Agriculture established the nation's first professorial position
devoted exclusively to organic agriculture.
Iowa State University is a leader in research in sustainable agriculture, and boasts the nation's
largest group of faculty working on issues of sustainable agriculture. Among the many vital and creative
programs in sustainable agriculture are:
- Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture
- ISU Extension programs in sustainable agriculture
- Henry A. Wallace Endowed Chair for Sustainable Agriculture
- Organic horticulture and agronomy research
- Practical Farmers of Iowa
- International Agriculture programs
There are bold and resourceful professors in a variety of departments who want to work with students
interested in sustainable agriculture.
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What will the sustainable agriculture graduate program include?
This program is flexible to meet the wants and needs of its students. It features:
- Team instruction
- Interdisciplinary courses and seminars
- Affiliations with multiple departments
- Potential for research and interaction with communities
and people across the United States and around the world
The curriculum includes:
- Agroecosystems analysis
- Integrated crop and livestock production systems
- Ecologically based pest management strategies
- Strategies for diversified food and farming systems
- Foundations of sustainable agriculture
- Sustainable agriculture colloquium
- Agroforestry systems
- Organic agriculture: Theory and practice
See the following link for detailed information. GPSA Curriculum.
This program features interdisciplinary work at its finest. Departments at Iowa State involved in
this program include:
- Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering
- Agricultural Education and Studies
- Animal Science
- Civil, Construction & Environmental Engineering
- Community and Regional Planning
- Industrial & Manufacturing Systems Engineering
- Natural Resource Ecology and Management
- Philosophy and Religious Studies
- Plant Pathology
- Political Science
- Veterinary Diagnostic & Production Animal Medicine
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What kind of careers can program graduates expect to enter?
At universities, there is a need for people who bring a new approach to problem solving. With a
graduate degree in sustainable agriculture, you would stand out as a person who could offer that
new approach in research, teaching and outreach programs.
In education, you would be a professional equipped to bring environmental knowledge to the design
of new learning experiences. Such programs are being established across the nation in formal
and informal educational programs for youth and adults.
In the food systems industry, you would be uniquely qualified to help companies pursue new
opportunities created by agricultural and environmental sustainability issues. In the changing
food system, you could be associated with new, direct marketing operations and creative business
In government, you would have the vision and skills to influence agricultural and environmental policy.
Many non-governmental organizations value an interdisciplinary
education. Organizations that deal with the environment, agriculture, and domestic and international
development are looking for highly qualified people who can bridge policy and community action.
Many program graduates will apply their training in farming. You would be
well prepared for commercial agriculture, as an owner or manager of a farming operation
that must compete in today's economy.
Where can I learn more?
Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture
Iowa State University
657 Ross Hall
Ames, IA 50011-1200