A unique opportunity to study the science of organic agriculture will become available to students this fall semester through Colorado State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences. The program, which will focus on organic food and fiber production, trains students for careers in organic agriculture, the fastest-growing sector of the agricultural industry. Colorado State is the first university in the nation to develop and offer a science-based organic agriculture program for undergraduate students.
The program offers interdisciplinary studies with core courses in the university’s agricultural and resource economics, bioagricultural sciences and pest management, horticulture and landscape architecture, and soil and crop sciences departments. The program also requires that students complete internships with organic farms or marketing businesses.
"This program provides students with a rare opportunity to study the science of organic food and fiber production through classroom and experiential learning expeditions," said Marc Johnson, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences. "Students will build career skills within fundamental agricultural sciences with specialized knowledge in organic agricultural methods, management and marketing. Our goal is to provide students with the tools to develop a holistic understanding of the food system and to empower them to enhance that knowledge with alternative agriculture practices."
Organic food and fiber production without the use of synthetic pesticides or chemical fertilizers is a booming sector of the agricultural industry, fuelled by consumer demand in North America and Europe.
The university’s program is designed for agricultural and horticultural students who are considering a career in organic food production and for students concerned with environmental and sociological impacts of conventional agricultural practices and alternative agricultural approaches.
To support the program, the university has developed new courses that address organic principles such as environmental issues in agriculture, how to diagnose and select appropriate disease and insect treatment options for organic crops, soil ecology, composting principles and practices and organic greenhouse production.
Internships will offer opportunities to work with local organic producers or the Colorado State University specialty crops program, which has 10 certified organic acres at the university’s Horticulture Field Research Center.
Courses required in the program include studies of ecology or environmental conservation, environmental issues in agriculture, human nutrition, soil science, agribusiness management, crop, fruit and vegetable production, plant disease diagnosis and treatment, and greenhouse production.
In addition, the program supports the university’s strategic plan to develop areas of emphasis for concentrated and collaborative research, teaching and public education related to topics critical to Colorado, the nation and the world. Among the topics identified by the university as priority areas for teaching and research are environmental sustainability and food, nutrition, health and well-being.
The certified organic label has been an official term in Colorado since 1989, when rules for certification were first enacted by the Colorado legislature. In 2002, the U.S. government established a certification standard that all food labeled as organic must meet. In Colorado, certified organic foods are regulated by the Colorado Department of Agriculture that also offers marketing assistance.
For more information on Colorado State’s interdisciplinary program in organic agriculture, visit http://organic.colostate.edu/.