CSUS 343

Community Food and Agricultural Systems

Summer 2019
Section 730, online
3.0 credit hours

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

Required Text:
Where Am I Eating? A Journey Through the Global Food Economy. Kelsey Timmerman. 2013. Wiley.

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, 500 points total)
* Weekly readings, reflection and commentaries
* Weekly reflections on presentations or field trips
* Review of book “Where Am I Eating?,” due June 7
* Review of book of your choice (or 3 films), due June 21
* Final self-evaluation, due June 27

Grading scale for the course (by percentage of the 500 points obtained):

94 to 100% – 4.0
87 to 93% – 3.5
80 to 86% – 3.0
75 to 79% – 2.5
70 to 74% – 2.0
65 to 69% – 1.5
60 to 64% – 1.0
<60% – no credit

Grades for all assignments are viewable in the gradebook (under “course options” on left side of page).

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 December 10) – however, you must inform me which one you are submitting late (so that I know to go back and grade it without penalty).

I highly recommend clicking on the calendar icon in the right side of schoology and noting all deadlines, particularly the two critical reviews and the self-evaluation (100 points each!). 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. New York Times Magazine, February 20, 2013.
  • Film: King Corn
  • The Farm Bill Drove Me Insane. Marion Nestle. Politico, March 17, 2016.
  • Linux for Lettuce. Lisa M. Hamilton. VQR, Summer 2014.
  • Presentation: Consolidation in the Food System

Week 2

  • 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.
  • Field Trip #1
  • Undercover in a Chicken Factory. Steve Striffler. Utne Reader, January/February 2004.
  • How Tyson Foods Kills Small Rural Towns. Christopher Leonard, Mother Earth News, December 2014/January 2015.
  • Presentation: “Politics in Action: The Environment of Food Choice” by Marion Nestle, August 28, 2013.

Week 3

  • What to Do About Pig Poop? Sarah Peach. National Geographic, October 2014.
  • One-Third of Food is Lost or Wasted: What Can Be Done? Elizabeth Royte. National Geographic, October 2014.
  • Presentation: Alternatives to the Hourglass?
  • Product of Mexico: No Way Out. Richard Marosi. Los Angeles Times, December 10, 2014.
  • In Florida Tomato Fields, a Penny Buys Progress. Steven Greenhouse. New York Times, April 24, 2014.
  • Film: McLibel

Week 4

  • What is Killing America’s Bees and What Does it Mean for Us? Alex Morris. Rolling Stone, August 18, 2015.
  • Escaping the Pesticide Trap: Non-Pesticide Management for Agricultural Pests. Gerry Marten. The EcoTipping Points Project, June 2005.
  • Field Trip #2
  • No Bar Code. Michael Pollan. Mother Jones, May/June 2006.
  • The Family Peach Farm that Became a Symbol of the Food Revolution. Dan Charles. NPR, March 14, 2015.
  • Film: A Farm for the Future
  • Critical Review of “Where Am I Eating” due.

Week 5

  • Food Co-ops Grow Up. Gail Nickel-Kailing. GoodFood World, December 9, 2010.
  • Member-Owned, Worker Run: Black Star Brewery. Stacy Edwards. Sheepless, August 4, 2011.
  • Field Trip #3
  • Fair Trade in Bloom. Andrew Downie. The New York Times, October 2, 2007.
  • Fair Trade at Home: The Domestic Fair Trade Movement. Twilight Greenaway. Culinate, March 31, 2008.
  • Presentation: Emerging Ecolabels

Week 6

  • Portland’s Food Truck Heaven. Abby Quillen. Yes! Magazine, January 17, 2014.
  • Follow the Vegetable Box. Vivian Winterhoff. December 18, 2014.
  • Presentation: Carolyn Steel. March 30, 2016.
  • This City Made Access to Food a Right of Citizenship. Frances Moore Lappe. Yes!, January 29, 2019.
  • Incredible Edible. Yorkshire Town’s Food-Growing Scheme Takes Root Worldwide. Naomi Larsson. The Guardian, May 9, 2018.
  • Presentation: Slow Food
  • Critical Reflection of 1 book or 3 films due (select from https://creator.zoho.com/howardp/books-and-films/#View:CFA_books_and_films_View)

Week 7

  • A Side of Grasshoppers. Eric Gomez. ESPN, April 13, 2018.
  • Inside Lab-Grown Meat Start-Ups. Olga Khazan. The Atlantic, April 29, 2019.
  • Field Trip #4
  • The War on Milk. Emily Sohn. Thirty Two Magazine, January 31, 2013.
  • Bistro Incognito. Ella Lawrence. North Bay Bohemian, April 6-12, 2005.

Final Exam

  • Self-Evaluation


The course outcomes support the Department of Community Sustainability undergraduate program competencies of systems thinking, community and critical thinking. Students can learn more about the Department of Community Sustainability undergraduate program competencies at http://www.csus.msu.edu/undergraduate/sustainability_core. 

Article 2.III.B.2 of the Academic Freedom Report states: “The student shares with the faculty the responsibility for maintaining the integrity of scholarship, grades, and professional standards.” In addition, the Department of Sustainability adheres to the policies on academic honesty specified in General Student Regulation 1.0, Protection of Scholarship and Grades; the all-University Policy on Integrity of Scholarship and Grades; and Ordinance 17.00, Examinations.

Therefore, unless authorized by your instructor, you are expected to complete all course assignments, including homework, lab work, quizzes, tests and exams, without assistance from any source. You are expected to develop original work for this course; therefore, you may not submit course work you completed for another course to satisfy the requirements for this course.  Also, you are not authorized to use the www.allmsu.com Web site to complete any course work in this course. Students who violate MSU regulations on Protection of Scholarship and Grades will receive a failing grade in the course or on the assignment.

Faculty are required to report all instances in which a penalty grade is given for academic dishonesty.  Students reported for academic dishonesty are required to take an online course about the integrity of scholarship and grades.  A hold will be placed on the student’s account until such time as the student completes the course.  This course is overseen by the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education.

Michigan State University is committed to ensuring that the bereavement process of a student who loses a family member during a semester does not put the student at an academic disadvantage in their classes. If you require a grief absence, you should complete the “Grief Absence Request” web form (found at https://www.reg.msu.edu/sitemap.aspx?Group=7) no later than one week after knowledge of the circumstance. I will work with you to make appropriate accommodations so that you are not penalized due to a verified grief absence.