CSUS 811

Community, Food and Agriculture: A Survey
CSUS 811
Fall 2017
Thursdays, 2:40 to 4pm and online
Room 225, Natural Resources Building

Required Texts:

Carolan, Michael. 2016. The Sociology of Food and Agriculture. 2nd Edition. New York: Routledge

Holmes, Seth. 2013. Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States. Oakland: University of California Press.

(additional readings as assigned in course management system)
Instructor: Phil Howard
316 Natural Resources
Office Hours: Thursdays, 4 to 5pm, and by appointment

Course Description. This graduate multi-disciplinary course in the Department of Community Sustainability examines a range of philosophical, environmental, socio-economic and political issues related to food and farming in the US. This course is designed as the introductory course for Community Sustainability students specializing in the area of Community, Food and Agriculture, as well as others interested in a wide variety of local, national and global food and farming issues. It also serves as an introductory social science course for students in the Ecological Food and Farming Systems specialization.

Key course themes that are addressed from diverse disciplinary and conceptual frameworks include: sustainability; the industrialization and corporate control of US food and farming; food and globalization; localized and place-based agriculture; governance of the agrifood system; and, food democracy, security and sovereignty.

Students are expected to draw upon their experiences and backgrounds, to expand their reading in the area of community, food and agriculture, and to explore a specific issue or theme from an intellectually-grounded conceptual framework.

Course Objectives

▪ provide students with an overview of the literature addressing local, national and global issues in community, food and agriculture
▪ develop an understanding of various conceptual perspectives used to address issues in the area of community, food and agriculture, and
▪ develop a scholarly capacity for analyzing food and farming problems from a multi-disciplinary perspective.

Course Approach The course is organized as a small seminar with a commitment to developing collaborative learning among all who participate. In the spirit of creating an intellectual community around community, food and agricultural issues, participants are encouraged to share their concerns about the learning environment and to shape our efforts to explore these issues.

Course Assignments

  • Weekly readings and written reflections – 100 points
  • Participation in class discussions and self-evaluation – 100 points
  • Critical review of a scholarly book (due Oct. 19) – 100 points
  • Final annotated bibliography and presentation (due Dec. 7) – 100 points

Grading scale for the course (by percentage of the 400 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

Weekly readings and written reflections – you are expected to answer the following questions about the weekly readings in the Schoology discussion forums:

1. what did you agree/disagree with the most? OR what did you find most useful?

2. what did the readings potentially leave out?

3a. what question(s) did the readings raise? 3b. what were you able to uncover about this question? (This will require that you seek out and read at least one additional article or chapter in an effort to answer your question. It’s OK if you’re not able to answer the question, just share what you learned in the process.)

The week after this written assignment is due you will read other students’ posts, and we will discuss them in class. This will stimulate retreival of the previous week’s readings, encourage memory formation, and reinforce connections to other subjects.

Critical review of a scholarly book – choose a book addressing the topics of community, food and agriculture of interest to you. Read carefully and write a critical review of approximately 1000 words. You may choose from among the references in the Carolan text, suggestions in the assignment folder, or meet with me to discuss some possibilities you’re coinsidering. Be sure to look at a number of examples of book reviews in scholarly journals, such as Agriculture and Human Values, to get a sense of what is expected. Typical elements include bibliographic information, a brief summary of the book, a critique, and a suggested audience. Keep in mind the purpose of the review is to help readers decide if it is worth their time to read the book.

Annotated bibliography – You will choose a very focused topic related to community, food and agriculture, and created an annotated bibliography with 20 to 25 entries (at approximately 150 words per entry). The majority of the entries should be peer-reviewed journal articles, but some book chapters (e.g. edited books) and reports are OK. A summary/synthesis paragraph preceding the entries is encouraged, but not required. A five minute presentation summarizing your findings will be delivered during the final week of class. For more see: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/614/01/ and examples posted in schoology.


Aug. 31 – Introduction

Sept. 7 – readings: Carolan, Introduction and Part I

Sept. 14 – no class meeting, readings: Carolan, Part II

Sept. 21 – readings: Carolan, Part III and IV

Sept. 28 – readings: Holmes, Chapters 1-3

Oct. 5 – readings: Holmes, Chapters 4 and 5

Oct. 12 – no class meeting, readings: Holmes, Chapters 6 and 7, appendix

Oct. 19 – critical review due; readings: Hodbod

Oct. 26 – readings: Howard chapters 1, 4 & 7; guest Hodbod

Nov. 2 – readings: Veit; “guest” Howard

Nov. 9 – readings: Pirog; guest Helen Veit, History

Nov. 16 – readings: Wright; guest Rich Pirog, CSUS/Center for Regional Food Systems

Nov. 23 – no class meeting, Thanksgiving holiday

Nov. 30 – guest Wynne Wright, CSUS

Dec. 7 – annotated bibliography due, final presentations

Dec. 12 – self-evaluation due at noon


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.