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Re-visioning agriculture in higher education: the role of campus agriculture initiatives in sustainability education

Abstract

The number of colleges and universities with campus agriculture projects in the US has grown from an estimated 23 in 1992 to nearly 300 today with possible increased numbers predicted. The profile emerging from campus agriculture projects looks a lot different from the traditional land grant colleges of agriculture. In spite of this emergent trend and staunch advocacy for campus agriculture projects, limited empirical research on agriculture-based learning in higher education exists outside agriculture degrees and theoretical work of scholars such as Liberty Hyde Bailey and David Orr. This study explored the diversity of characteristics and pedagogical objectives of emerging campus agriculture projects through a nationwide compilation, surveying campus agriculture project directors and educators, and multiple case studies. Data collected gives empirical evidence supporting claims agriculture is taking on a different identity in higher education. Issues of sustainability, food, and agriculture are not only influencing the physical workings of colleges and universities, but pedagogy on a departmental and institutional scale. Findings illustrate a re-visioning of how higher education is interfacing with agriculture and agriculture-based education beyond traditional agriculture degrees at land grant colleges of agriculture to focus teaching sustainability, critical thinking and inquiry skills, and fostering a sense of belonging to community.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    I am using campus agriculture project throughout the paper for ease of reference, but many of the sites consider their agriculture projects as educational farms or gardens.

  2. 2.

    J. Lewin, field notes, June 6, 2013.

  3. 3.

    M. Bomford, field notes, June 6, 2013.

  4. 4.

    J. Lewin, field notes, June 6, 2013.

Abbreviations

AASHE:

Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education

CSA:

Community supported agriculture

NRC:

National Research Council

PEAS:

Program in Ecological Agriculture and Society

SA:

Sustainable agriculture

STARS:

Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System

UNF:

University of North Florida

US:

United States

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Correspondence to Kerri LaCharite.

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LaCharite, K. Re-visioning agriculture in higher education: the role of campus agriculture initiatives in sustainability education. Agric Hum Values 33, 521–535 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-015-9619-6

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Keywords

  • Sustainable agriculture education
  • Sustainability education
  • Higher education
  • Pedagogy
  • Student farms