Undergraduate Major Spotlight: Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems

Monday, January 30, 2023

Love the life sciences, but not sure what you want to study? Stuck between biology and biochemistry? Never even heard of geospatial analysis? In this blog series, we're highlighting the inspiring and innovative programs of study that the University of New Hampshire's College of Life Sciences and Agriculture (COLSA) has to offer.

Are you passionate about building a sustainable future for society's food and fiber needs, ensuring thriving ecosystems for future generations? The sustainable agriculture and food systems undergraduate major (SAFS) at UNH provides an interdisciplinary experience in modern agricultural and food systems, providing hands-on experience in cutting-edge research and a strong foundation in the biological sciences.

Reasons to Choose the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Major

The goal of sustainable 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. Sustainable 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.

The SAFS degree program addresses critical environmental and socioeconomic issues to meet the needs of the present without compromising the health and safety of future generations. For example, sustainable agriculture aims to protect natural resources such as soil, water, and air by reducing pollution from chemical fertilizers and pesticides, maintaining biodiversity of wild habitats, and preserving the genetic diversity of crops and animals. These practices help ensure food security for present and future generations by promoting food production systems that are resilient to environmental changes, such as droughts, floods, and pests. Sustainable agriculture can also play an important role in addressing climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving soil health and sequestering carbon. From a social perspective, sustainable agriculture and food systems seek to ensure basic human needs are met while operating within the limits of natural resources, promoting equity and inclusive economic development.

Overall, sustainable agriculture and food systems are important because they help balance the economic, social and environmental aspects of food production while safeguarding food security, protecting natural resources, and supporting healthy ecosystems. This ensures that human agriculture can continue in the long term, providing benefits for farmers, consumers, and the environment.

Reasons to Study Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems at UNH

A degree in sustainable agriculture and food systems can open up a wide variety of career opportunities, as the field is diverse and includes many different subdisciplines. Each student develops their own customized emphasis area within sustainable 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 with this degree can include:

  • Agricultural business management and entrepreneurship: managing operations of farms or marketing, sales, and finance in the agriculture industry
  • Agricultural research: conducting experiments to improve crop yields, develop new plant varieties, and find new ways to combat pests and disease while preserving biodiversity and wildlife habitats
  • Agricultural services and support: consulting with landowners on environmental regulations and planning land conservation efforts
  • Education and outreach: teaching in high school or post-secondary education or public outreach with museums and non-profits
  • Grant writing and policymaking: working for government agencies such as the USDA to develop agriculture and food safety policy and rural development programs
  • Production of food and fiber: producing and selling food or other goods to the local community or around the world

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