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.