CSUS 343

CSUS 343: Community Food and Agricultural Systems

Spring 2023

Section 730, online (D2L)

3.0 credit hours

Instructor: Phil Howard
Office Phone: 355-8431
Office Address: 316 Natural Resources
Office Hours: by appointment
E-mail: howardp@msu.edu

Required Text:
Eating to Extinction: The World’s Rarest Foods and Why We Need to Save Them. Dan Saladino. 2022. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Description: Food and agricultural systems. Inputs, production, processing, distribution, consumption and disposal. Industrialization, globalization and centralization of power. Community goals including ecological sustainability, social justice, economic viability and democracy.

Goals of the Course:
Investigate the paths food takes from fields to forks, both here and abroad
Explore the intersections of community, food, agriculture and the environment
Analyze dominant trends in food systems, and responses to these trends
Critically assess strategies to achieve sustainable food systems

Course Activities (100 points each, 400 points total)
* Weekly readings, reflection and commentaries
* Weekly reflections on presentations or field trips
* Two reviews: book “Eating to Extinction,” due February 15 and a book of your choice (or 3 films), due March 29
* Final self-evaluation, due May 2

Grading scale for the course (by percentage of the 400 points obtained):

96 to 100% – 4.0
90 to 95% – 3.5
84 to 89% – 3.0
78 to 83% – 2.5
72 to 77% – 2.0
66 to 71% – 1.5
60 to 65% – 1.0
<60% – no credit

Grades for all assignments are viewable in the gradebook.

LATE POLICY: if you are occasionally a few minutes past the 5pm deadlines don’t worry, no points will be deducted unless it becomes a habit.

You are allowed ONE late assignment with no penalty (submitted up to one week late, but before the course ends April 26) – however, you must inform me which one you are submitting late so that I know to go back and grade it without penalty.

Late assignment penalty is minus 50% of total points, but only up to one week after the deadline. Submissions more than a week late will receive no credit. Note that mathematically you can score a zero on one or two weekly assignments during the course and still achieve a 4.0.

I highly recommend checking the course schedule and noting all deadlines, particularly the two critical reviews (50 points each) and the self-evaluation (100 points). You will need to obtain and read your books/view films well before these deadlines (also in bold above) in order to complete them successfully.

ADVICE: Try to submit well before the deadlines if possible, there is no reason not to work as far ahead as you can – other than commenting on two other student’s posts for the readings assignments (if enough other students haven’t also submitted ahead of the deadline).


Week 1

  • Introduction to Food Systems
  • Personal Introductions
  • Why Chicken Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken Anymore. Mark Schatzker. New York Post, April 26, 2015.
  • The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food. Michael Moss. The New York Times Magazine, February 20, 2013.
  • Optional reading: Scrinis. Gyorgy. 2016. Reformulation, fortification and functionalization: Big Food corporations’ nutritional engineering and marketing strategies. The Journal of Peasant Studies, 43(1), 17-37
  • Film: King Corn

Week 2

  • The Farm Bill Drove Me Insane. Marion Nestle. Politico, March 17, 2016.
  • Linux for Lettuce. Lisa M. Hamilton. VQR, Summer 2014.
  • Optional reading: Patel, Raj & Jim Goodman. 2020. The long New Deal. The Journal of Peasant Studies, 47(3), 431-463.
  • Presentation: Consolidation in the Food System

Week 3

  • Power Steer. Michael Pollan, The New York Times Magazine, March 31, 2002.
  • The Burger That Shattered Her Life. Michael Moss. The New York Times, October 3, 2009.
  • Optional reading: Lander, Brian, Mindi Schneider, & Katherine Brunson. 2020. A history of pigs in China: From curious omnivores to industrial pork. Journal of Asian Studies, 79(4), 865-889.
  • Field Trip #1

Week 4

  • Undercover in a Chicken Factory. Steve Striffler. Utne Reader, January/February 2004.
  • JBS: The Brazilian Butchers Who Took Over the World. Andrew Wasley et al. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, July 2, 2019.
  • Optional reading: Stull, Donald D. 2020. Making meat in the time of COVID-19, Anthropology Now, 12(2), 5-17.
  • Presentation: “Politics in Action: The Environment of Food Choice” by Marion Nestle, August 28, 2013.

Week 5

  • Food Waste of the Pandemic. David Yaffe-Bellany and Michael Corkery. The New York Times, April 11, 2020.
  • How Biogas Could Do More Harm Than Good for the Hog Industry. Cameron Oglesby. Scalawag, March 24, 2022.
  • Optional reading: Bajželj, B., Quested, T. E., Röös, E., & Swannell, R. P. 2020. The role of reducing food waste for resilient food systems. Ecosystem Services, 45, 101140.
  • Presentation: Alternatives to the Hourglass?

Week 6

  • Product of Mexico: No Way Out. Richard Marosi. Los Angeles Times, December 10, 2014.
  • In Florida Tomato Fields, a Penny Buys Progress. Steven Greenhouse. The New York Times, April 24, 2014.
  • Optional reading: Sbicca, Joshua, Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern, & Shelby Coopwood. 2020. “Because they are connected”: Linking structural inequalities in farmworker organizing. Human Geography, 13(3), 263-276.
  • Film: McLibel
  • Critical Review of “Eating to Extinction” due

Week 7

  • The Playbook for Poisoning the Earth. Lee Fang. The Intercept. January 18, 2020.
  • Escaping the Pesticide Trap: Non-Pesticide Management for Agricultural Pests. Gerry Marten. The EcoTipping Points Project, June 2005.
  • Optional reading: Luna, Jessie K. 2020. ‘Pesticides are our children now’: cultural change and the technological treadmill in the Burkina Faso cotton sector. Agriculture and Human Values, 37(2), 449-462.
  • Field Trip #2

Week 8

  • No Bar Code. Michael Pollan. Mother Jones, May/June 2006.
  • The Family Peach Farm that Became a Symbol of the Food Revolution. Dan Charles. The Salt (NPR), March 15, 2015.
  • Optional reading: Meek, David, & Colin R. Anderson. 2020. Scale and the politics of the organic transition in Sikkim, India. Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, 44(5), 653-672.
  • Film: Agroecology: Various Approaches in Europe

Week 9

  • Food Co-ops Grow Up. Gail Nickel-Kailing. GoodFood World, December 9, 2010.
  • How Employee Ownership Helped Phoenix Coffee Survive Covid-19. Mark Oprea. Cleveland Scene, December 31, 2020.
  • Optional reading: Open Markets Institute. 2020. Redeeming the Democratic Promise of Agricultural Cooperatives. September.
  • Presentation: Emerging Ecolabels

Week 10

  • Flour Power. Liz Carlisle. Yes! Magazine, Winter 2020.
  • Building the Mecca of Heritage Poultry in Kansas. Twilight Greenaway. Civil Eats, August 23, 2018.
  • Optional reading: Pilling, Dafydd, Julie Bélanger & Irene Hoffmann. 2020. Declining biodiversity for food and agriculture needs urgent global action. Nature Food, 1(3), 144-147.
  • Field Trip #3

Week 11

  • How Food Trucks Endured and Succeeded During the Pandemic. Kerry Hannon. New York Times, May 24, 2021.
  • How Food Hubs and Co-Ops are Overcoming the USDA Farm Box Program’s Flaws. Lisa Held. Civil Eats, June 11, 2020.
  • Optional reading: Hendrickson, Mary K., Sarah Hultine Massengale & Randolph Cantrell. 2020. “No money exchanged hands, no bartering took place. But it’s still local produce”: Understanding local food systems in rural areas in the US Heartland. Journal of Rural Studies, 78, 480-490.
  • Presentation: Carolyn Steel. March 30, 2016.
  • Critical Review of 1 book or 3 films due (select from https://creator.zoho.com/howardp/books-and-films/#View:CFA_books_and_films_View)

Week 12

  • This City Made Access to Food a Right of Citizenship. Frances Moore Lappe. Yes! Magazine, January 29, 2019.
  • Incredible Edible. Yorkshire Town’s Food-Growing Scheme Takes Root Worldwide. Naomi Larsson. The Guardian, May 9, 2018.
  • Optional reading: Blesh, Jennifer, Leslie Hoey, Andrew D. Jones, Harriet Friedmann & Ivette Perfecto. 2019. Development pathways toward “zero hunger”. World Development, 118, 1-14.
  • Presentation: Slow Food

Week 13

  • A Side of Grasshoppers. Eric Gomez. ESPN, April 13, 2018.
  • Lab-Grown Meat is Full of Contradictions. Chloe Sorvino. Slate, December 21, 2022.
  • Optional reading: IPES-Food. 2022. Lead author Philip Howard. The politics of protein: examining claims about livestock, fish, ‘alternative proteins’ and sustainability. Brussels, Belgium: International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems.
  • Field Trip #4

Week 14

  • The Chef Restoring Appalachia’s World Class Food Culture. Eric J. Wallace. Atlas Obscura, January 10, 2020.
  • Hold the Salt: The Promise of Little Fresh Fishes. Paul Tullis. Hakai Magazine, August 24, 2020.
  • Optional reading: Naylor, R. L., Hardy, R. W., Buschmann, A. H., et al. Bush, 2021. A 20-year retrospective review of global aquaculture. Nature, 591(7851), 551-563.
  • Film: Regreening the Desert

Week 15

  • The War on Milk. Emily Sohn. Thirty Two Magazine, January 31, 2013.
  • The Secret Resistance Behind the World’s Most Dangerous Cheese. Mark Hay. The Outline, March 31, 2020.
  • Optional reading: Reisman, Emily & Madeleine Fairbairn. 2020. Agri-food systems and the Anthropocene, Annals of the American Association of Geographers, DOI:10.1080/24694452.2020.1828025

Final Exam: Self-Evaluation