UW professor to build organic ag curriculum
November 12, 2015
A University of Wyoming faculty member who believes organic agriculture is often oversimplified and misrepresented has her opportunity to correct that by building a relevant student curriculum thanks to a $242,908 Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
Randa Jabbour in the Department of Plant Sciences and Eric Gallandt of the University of Maine will interview instructors across the county and use a video of several agricultural producers in different regions to create a curriculum open and free for anyone to use.
The focus is creating undergraduate and graduate curriculum.
"A lot of people don't understand the complexity and the rules behind organic agriculture," said Jabbour, an assistant professor of agroecology in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. "I'm excited to introduce the students to that complexity and for them to decide whether or not that's something they want to pursue."
“A lot of people don’t understand the complexity and the rules behind organic agriculture. I’m excited to introduce the students to that complexity...” Randa Jabbour, professor of plant sciences
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Organic is only one method of farming among many, she noted.
"It's one opportunity people have," said Jabbour. "I don't want people to think I'm saying this is the way all agriculture should be. This is just one approach to take."
The project goal is to provide relevant material to instructors across the country who many not be well-versed in current practices and rules for the National Organic Program, she said.
"We hope to fill a niche by giving the resources to those faculty members who don't know much about the topic so they can address it in their classes," said Jabbour. "Our goal is to work with experts to put together a curriculum that provides high-quality, science-based, farm-supported information that can be used across the country, even if instructors don't necessarily have strengths in that area."
The project has just started, but Jabbour said she has received letters of support from faculty members in 10 states saying they want to participate.
Once completed, the curriculum will be in a public Web location so other instructors can access the material.
The curriculum draws from different agricultural regions to make the curriculum applicable across the country.
"The idea is to try to give people a better understanding of the diversity of agricultural operations in the U.S.," she said. "Depending upon where you go to school, a lot of us teach with a regional emphasis because those are examples that are easy to include in the curriculum."
The combination of interviewing instructors and creating the farmer video (will include a producer from Wyoming) is to show students how different agriculture can be and also what operators or producers have in common.
"These are important concepts our students need to understand regardless of where someone farms that are relevant to building sustainable agricultural systems," said Jabbour.
That portion of the project will demonstrate the depth and breadth of agriculture in America and help build a curriculum that homes in on critical concepts and skills pertinent to students no matter their locations, said Jabbour.
She will teach the modules online in fall 2016, and other instructors will test the material in face-to-face classrooms.
–University of Wyoming Extension