Agriculture and Food Systems Major (B.S.)

Agriculture and Food Systems Major (B.S.)
Student working in a greenhouse

What is agriculture and food systems?

The goal of agriculture and food systems is to meet society’s food and fiber needs in a way that ensures clean air, water and thriving ecosystems for future generations. Agriculture and food systems at UNH is the study of the biological, ecological, economic and social components of agroecosystems. The B.S. degree program provides an interdisciplinary experience with an emphasis on systems thinking. Students will gain a broad base of knowledge and experience in modern agricultural and food systems and a strong foundation in the biological sciences.

Why study agriculture and food systems at UNH? 

Our B.S. degree program is ideal for students interested in developing both a broad base of knowledge and experience in modern agricultural and food systems, and a strong foundation in the biological sciences. Each student develops their own customized emphasis area within agriculture and food systems: agroecology, horticulture, animal agriculture, agriculture and food systems policy, and entrepreneurship are some examples. Most of our students also gain hands-on experience in cutting-edge research taking place at our top-notch agricultural research facilities including two working dairy farms, horticulture and agronomy farms, greenhouses, and the UNH brewing science laboratory.

Potential careers 

  • Agricultural business management and entrepreneurship 
  • Agricultural research 
  • Agricultural services and support 
  • Education and outreach 
  • Grant writing 
  • Policymaking  
  • Production of food and fiber

Program Coordinator - Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems
Phone: (603) 862-4653
Office: Agriculture, Nutrition & Food Systems, Kedall Hall- Office 519, Lab 506, Durham, NH 03824
  • UNH student Olivia Camara
    Pursuing Two Passions, Preparing for Success
    Agriculture and photography may not seem like common combined passions, but they are for Olivia Camara ’24, who is a sustainable agriculture and food systems major with a focus on dairy management from Acushnet, Massachusetts.
    Learn More
  • UNH student Ella Lukacz on a farm
    Evaluating Hydrangea Cultivars for Regional Growers
    Ella Lukacz is a sustainable agriculture and food systems major and history minor from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. COLSA:…
    Learn More
  • A photo of Rachel Dubanoski with a cow at Fairchild Dairy and Research Center
    UNH Fairchild Dairy Teaching and Research Center
    Rachel Dubanoski ’15 earned her Bachelor’s degree in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems with a focus on Dairy Management from the University of New Hampshire before working in the dairy industry in Vermont. In 2021, she came back to New Hampshire and was hired on as assistant farm manager at Fairchild Dairy. Initially an engineer major at UNH, she changed majors to pursue her passion for working with animals.
    Learn More
  • Paul Pollaro
    Paul Pollaro graduated this spring with a degree in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems. During his time at UNH, he fused his passion for plants and interest in history by researching silphium, an ancient herb…
    Learn More
  • Peter Kane tends to lettuce in one of UNH's high tunnels
    Recent grad didn’t go far to find a rewarding job
    Pete Kane ’18 started managing the Farm to You NH high tunnels and half-acre field adjacent to the Fairchild Dairy in 2016, while he was still an undergrad.
    Learn More

Curriculum & Requirements

The Agriculture and Food Systems B.S. provides students with a strong foundation in biological sciences and a broad base of knowledge and experiences with modern agriculture and food systems. Agriculture and Food Systems is an interdisciplinary field comprising the social, physical, and life sciences and beyond. Agriculture is key to solving many of the major challenges facing the world, such as producing food to meet the needs of an ever-growing population while conserving land, water, and soil resources.
Our students get hands-on experience in applied coursework, and we encourage our students to conduct research alongside faculty. Our students become practitioners and entrepreneurs of agricultural and food businesses, researchers and policy-makers at state/federal agencies and non-profit organizations, laboratory technicians, and agricultural educators. Some go on to obtain advanced degrees in the agricultural sciences.

Degree Requirements

Minimum Credit Requirement: 128 credits
Minimum Residency Requirement: 32 credits must be taken at UNH
Minimum GPA: 2.0 required for conferral*
Core Curriculum Required: Discovery & Writing Program Requirements
Foreign Language Requirement: No

All Major, Option and Elective Requirements as indicated.
*Major GPA requirements as indicated.

Major Requirements

The SAFS B.S. program structure includes FOUR major components: foundation courses, courses in a student-designed emphasis area, program elective courses, and a capstone. You must earn a minimum grade of C- in all courses required for the major.

Foundation courses include 49 credits, which satisfy at least 6 of the University Discovery requirements.

Student-Designed Emphasis courses include 20 credits that make up a cohesive emphasis or focus area. Courses may be selected from the List of Approved Program Electives, but do not need to be on that list. Each student will define their emphasis area in consultation with their advisor and submit it to the SAFS program committee for approval prior to the start of their 7th semester.

Program Elective courses include 16 credits, chosen from the List of Approved Program Elective courses.

A Capstone experience must take place during senior year.  There are two capstone options: SAFS 733 Advanced Topics in Sustainable Agriculture or ANSC 750 Collaborative Farm Design and Development.  Your capstone MAY NOT be counted towards elective or emphasis credits.

Of the Student-Designed Emphasis and Program Elective courses, at least 16 credits (not counting the capstone) must be earned at the 600-700 level

B.S. Foundation Courses
ANSC 421Introduction to Animal Science4
BIOL 411Introductory Biology: Molecular and Cellular4
BIOL 412Introductory Biology: Evolution, Biodiversity and Ecology4
BIOL 528Applied Biostatistics I4
or EREC 525 Statistical Methods and Applications
EREC 680Agricultural and Food Policy4
or EREC 411 Environmental and Resource Economics Perspectives
or ECON 402 Principles of Economics (Micro)
CHEM 403General Chemistry I 14
or CHEM 411 Introductory Chemistry for Life Sciences
CHEM 404General Chemistry II4
or BMCB 501 Biological Chemistry
or BIOL 541W Ecology
NR 501Studio Soils4
SAFS 405Sustainable Agriculture and Food Production4
SAFS 421Introductory Horticulture4
SAFS 502Agroecology4
SAFS 602Emphasis Development and Professional Pathways in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems1
SAFS 620Food Systems & Community Resilience4
Student-Designed Emphasis Area
At least 20 credits, proposed using the emphasis area declaration form (see your advisor) at least 2 semesters prior to planned graduation date.20
Program Electives
Select 16 credits from the approved electives list16
Senior Capstone Experience
Select one from the following:
SAFS 733Advanced Topics in Sustainable Agriculture4
or ANSC 750 Collaborative Farm Design and Development
Total Credits89

Some courses (e.g. genetics, microbiology) require CHEM 403 General Chemistry I and CHEM 404 General Chemistry II as a prerequisite.  If you intend to take these courses, you should take CHEM 403 General Chemistry I rather than CHEM 411 Introductory Chemistry for Life Sciences.

Approved Electives
AAS 421Large Animal Behavior and Handling Techniques2
AAS 423Dairy Selection2
AAS 425Introduction to Dairy Herd Management4
AAS 432Introduction to Forage and Grassland Management3
AAS 434Equipment and Facilities Management3
AAS 439Fundamentals of Animal Health2
ANSC 548Agricultural Business Management4
ANSC 600Field Experience1-4
ANSC 602Animal Rights and Societal Issues4
ANSC 603Introduction to Livestock Management4
ANSC 605Poultry Production and Health Management4
ANSC 609Principles of Animal Nutrition4
ANSC 612Genetics of Animals4
ANSC 625Animal Diseases4
ANSC 650Dairy Industry Travel Course1
ANSC 690Livestock and Wildlife in Namibia: Challenges, Opportunities and Geography4
ANSC 698Cooperative for Real Education in Agricultural Management (CREAM)4
ANSC 701Physiology of Reproduction4
ANSC #708Ruminant Nutritional Physiology3
ANSC 710Dairy Nutrition4
ANSC 715Physiology of Lactation4
ANSC 724Reproductive Management and Artificial Insemination4
ANSC 727Advanced Dairy Management I4
ANSC 728Advanced Dairy Management II4
ANSC 750Collaborative Farm Design and Development4
ANSC 795Investigations1-4
BIOL 409Green Life: Introducing the Botanical Sciences4
BIOL 510Mushrooms, Molds, and Mildews: Introduction to the Fungal Kingdom4
BIOL 541WEcology0 or 4
BIOL 566Systematic Botany4
BIOL #701Plant Physiology4
BIOL 704Plant-Microbe Interactions3
BIOL #709Plant Stress Physiology3
BIOL 720Plant-Animal Interactions4
BIOL 752New England Mushrooms: a Field and Lab Exploration4
BMS 503General Microbiology3
BMS 504General Microbiology Laboratory2
CEP 415Community Development Perspectives4
CHBE 410Energy and Environment4
ECOG 401Introduction to Ecogastronomy4
EREC #601Agribusiness Economics and Management4
EREC 680Agricultural and Food Policy4
FORT 577Forest Harvesting Systems4
FORT 579Wildland Fire Ecology and Management4
GEN 604Principles of Genetics0 or 4
GEN 772Evolutionary Genetics of Plants4
GEN #774Techniques in Plant Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology4
GEOG 670Climate and Society4
HMGT 570International Food and Culture4
MGT 520Topics in Management4
MKTG 530Survey of Marketing4
NR 425Field Dendrology4
NR 435Contemporary Conservation Issues and Environmental Awareness4
NR 504Freshwater Resources4
NR #506Forest Entomology4
NR 527Forest Ecology4
NR 602Natural Resources and Environmental Policy4
NR 643Economics of Forestry4
NR 650Principles of Conservation Biology4
NR 706Soil Ecology4
NR 729Silviculture4
NR 749Forest Inventory and Modeling4
NR 760Geographic Information Systems in Natural Resources4
NR 761Environmental Soil Chemistry4
NR 782Forest Health in a Changing World4
NR 785Systems Thinking for Sustainable Solutions4
NUTR 400Nutrition in Health and Well Being4
NUTR 405Food and Society4
NUTR 550Food Science: Principle and Practice4
NUTR 720Community Nutrition4
NUTR 730From Seed to Sea: Examining Sustainable Food Systems4
NUTR 795Investigations1-4
RMP 724Research, Evaluation, and Data-Driven Decisions4
SAFS 410A Taste of the Tropics4
SAFS 415Introduction to Brewing Art and Science4
SAFS 515Technical Brewing4
SAFS 601Fruit Crop Production4
SAFS 632Urban Agriculture4
SAFS 651Plant Pathology4
SAFS 670Systems Thinking: Land Use Capability and Sustainability in Aotearoa New Zealand4
SAFS 671Agroecology and Sustainable Land Management in Aotearoa New Zealand4
SAFS 672Pathways to Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems in Aotearoa New Zealand4
SAFS 673Agricultural Production and Business Practice in Aotearoa New Zealand4
SAFS 679Food Production Field Experience I4
SAFS 680Food Production Field Experience II4
SAFS 689Greenhouse Management and Operation4
SAFS 733Advanced Topics in Sustainable Agriculture4
SAFS 750Food System Solutions; Increasing Sustainability and Equity4
SAFS #760Insect Pest Management4
SAFS 795Investigations1-4
SAFS 799Honors Senior Thesis1-4
MEFB 772Fisheries Biology: Conservation and Management4
ZOOL 555Introduction to Entomology4
ZOOL 610Principles of Aquaculture4

University Requirements

In addition to meeting the SAFS major requirements, students must satisfy all University requirements including those that pertain to the minimum number of credits, grade-point average, writing-intensive courses, and the Discovery Program.

  • Students will demonstrate a working understanding of the interdisciplinary nature of agriculture and food systems and the basic principles underpinning sustainability including: economic viability, environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and the trade-offs between competing metrics of sustainability.
  • Students will demonstrate in-depth knowledge, critical thinking and analysis, and effective written communication in a self-declared area of emphasis within the program.
  • Students will gain an applied understanding of agriculture and food systems by engaging in an experiential education opportunity.
  • Students will be able to independently interpret, evaluate, and engage with research in the agricultural sciences, including its biological, physical, social, and/or economic aspects.

Explore Program Details

Why study Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems (SAFS)?

Encompassing everything from land use, natural resource management, food production, processing, distribution, policy, consumption, and human health, the food system is one of the most complex and vital underpinnings of society. The SAFS major is designed to provide students with a foundational understanding of this complexity so that they may effectively engage in the ongoing evolution of our food system to meet future economic, social, and environmental challenges.

What kinds of jobs do SAFS graduates get?

Since the program began in 2010, our SAFS graduates have gone on to pursue a wide variety of exciting and fulfilling careers. Most (80%) are working in production agriculture or another sector of the food system. Some have chosen to pursue post-graduate degrees in agricultural science, nutrition, law, and related fields. Many are entrepreneurs or managers of food and agricultural businesses and many others are educators, communicators, or advocates who support agricultural enterprises or consumers.

What are the opportunities in SAFS for "hands-on" learning and courses that would give me practical experience working in agriculture?

There are many!

For students interested in animal agriculture, there are numerous experiential courses, where students manage and care for animals as part of course requirements. All the following courses also include lectures and traditional assignments, but students take what they learn and apply it daily to the animals kept at UNH. These courses include Introduction to Livestock Management with a flock of sheep on campus in the spring semester, PEEP (Poultry Experiential Education Program) where students raise broilers over the course of the fall semester, and CREAM (Cooperative Real Education in Agriculture Management), where students manage (including feeding and milking) a herd of dairy cows for the entire school year.

For students interested in horticulture or plant-based agriculture, students in our Food Production Field Experience courses apply their knowledge of crop scheduling and planning to Farm to YouNH. Each student works in open-field and protected agriculture environments to produce crops year-round for UNH dining and catering.

Is it possible to add a double major, dual major or minor and still graduate on time?

Yes! The SAFS major is relatively flexible, and it is usually possible to add a dual major or minor as well as the SAFS major within four years. It is also possible, but a bit more challenging, to add a double major. This is more difficult for students transferring from other institutions or other majors if they have taken many classes that do not meet major requirements.

How big is the program?

The SAFS program currently has about 60 majors, so approximately 15 students graduate each year. We feel this is large enough to offer a cohesive group and critical mass, while also being small enough to offer personalized attention and small classes. There are currently faculty members representing a wide range of disciplines who teach and advise SAFS students. And our students benefit from a having a broad selection of courses as they pursue their specific interests within the program.

Are there opportunities to work closely with faculty?

Yes! Most of our majors do research in the labs of one or more faculty members while they are here at UNH. UNH hosts one of the largest undergraduate research conferences in the nation, and it is a great opportunity to share research results with other students, faculty members, and the broader community.

Are there opportunities to get hands-on experience working on farms, or internships with agricultural businesses or other sectors of the food system?

Yes! Many of our faculty have relationships with the agricultural community and the broader food system, and we post and share job opportunities on a regular basis.

There are also many jobs available on the UNH career database, Handshake. The College of Life Sciences and Agriculture is also home to the St. Martin Career Exploration Office, a terrific resource offering professional development for students.

Some of our SAFS majors have also taken advantage of Semester in the City, a UNH program that involves a semester in Boston with internships in urban agriculture and organizations working to enhance food security. Finally, UNH maintains numerous farms on or just off campus where students are strongly encouraged to apply for work-study positions, where they can work with animals, crops, and assisting faculty on research projects in the field.

Are there opportunities to study abroad within the SAFS program?

Yes! We have many exciting opportunities to study abroad, ranging from a three-week January course that studies agriculture in Costa Rica to a full semester studying sustainable agriculture in the context of the food system in New Zealand.

Other opportunities have included Spring Semester courses such as The Integration of Culture and Agriculture in Ireland and a new course called Livestock and Wildlife Management in Namibia due to start in Spring 2021. Both courses have classroom components all semester on campus, with a 10-day study abroad component during Spring Break or at the end of the semester.

What is the process for transferring into the SAFS program from another 2- or 4-year institution?

It is easy. Once a student is accepted to UNH, an official credit evaluation will be completed to determine the total credits transferred and any Discovery Requirements that have been fulfilled. Then, we determine which courses from other institutions will be accepted towards fulfilling major requirements. We are happy to talk about what this might look like before you apply – please contact the program coordinator if you’d like more information.

If I am interested in a specific aspect of Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems, can I focus on that?

Yes! Instead of having specific pre-determined “tracks” or “options”, each student defines and names their own emphasis area that comprises a cohesive group of courses. Recent emphasis areas declared by our students include dairy management, crop production and management, horticulture business operations, agricultural policy, agroecology, community nutrition and food systems, educational methods in agriculture, and many more.

How does the process of “declaring an emphasis area” work?

Typically, near the end of their junior year, each student develops a proposal, writing an essay that explains how the courses chosen represent a cohesive emphasis area, and how this relates to the student’s personal and professional goals beyond UNH. A committee of faculty reviews and approves each emphasis area.

Is there a minor in SAFS?

Yes! We do offer a minor in SAFS, consisting of five courses. We also offer two other related minors: Environmental Horticulture and Brewing Science.

Take the Next Step

Undergraduate student on campus
A view of T-Hall on the UNH campus.
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