June 4, 2004, University of Missouri CAFNR News:
The University of Missouri has become the first educational
institution in the Midwest to offer a four-year undergraduate
degree that emphasizes sustainable agriculture.
The degree is offered as an emphasis area and minor
within a General Agriculture degree from the MU College
of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR).
MU Vice Chancellor and CAFNR Dean Tom Payne said the
sustainable agriculture degree program “is structured
more toward a holistic approach to agriculture that
includes the farm, environment and community, and incorporates
the social, environmental and economic components of
food production and consumption.”
Even as the production of major agricultural commodities
moves more toward the factory-farming model, there also
has been “increased demand, reflected in consistently
rising levels of sales, for local and regional food
products, organic foods and ‘natural foods,’”
according to the report of a committee that recommended
That committee, headed by MU rural sociologist Sandy
Rikoon, was made up of CAFNR students and faculty from
a wide array of disciplines within the College. The
panel cited high levels of student and consumer interest
in sustainable agriculture.
“Consumer demands for locally produced and marketed
products are particularly important in Missouri, where
the state’s ecological base and cultural heritage
suggest that sustainable agriculture systems are especially
environmentally, economically and socially viable,”
the report said.
Payne agreed. “It's clear that many producers
in Missouri and the United States are seeking new market
niches for traditional and new products, and the kinds
of direct marketing links to consumers that sustainable
agriculture emphasizes,” he said. “This
new curriculum also responds to the increasing numbers
of citizens, chefs, and public and private institutions
seeking to purchase local and regional foods directly
from producers. Being on a Research I campus allows
our students to take new discoveries and understandings
to further improve agricultural methods and achieve
a more sustainable agriculture of benefit to all.”
Students trained in sustainable agriculture are in
demand for global and international development projects,
the committee found. “The current emphasis on
sustainable development and the environment by U.S.
agencies and non-governmental organizations as well
as the adoption of sustainable development by the United
Nations and most international development agencies
have created a need for students with relevant educational
and technical knowledge,” the report said.
“What’s it all mean?” asked Payne.
“Well, it’s about choices and exposing students
to different philosophies about how food should be produced
and marketed. It will allow students the option to investigate
and learn about various alternative approaches to agriculture.”