New Summer Course: ‘Sustainable Agriculture and Conservation’

A new course entitled ‘Sustainable Agriculture and Conservation’ will be offered this summer (B term). It will be co-taught by Beth Wheat of the UW farm and Carson Springer, an ecologist and restoration forester. The class will be held on Shaw Island in the San Juans. Applications are due February 1st, and only 15 students will be accepted. More information about the course can be found below, as well as at

Sustainable Agriculture and Conservation

Biol 497 (9 total credits)

Session B: July 25 – August 26, 2011 (5 weeks)
Monday-Saturday (Mon-Fri 8 am-5 pm, plus Sat morning 8 am-noon, except final week no Saturday meeting)
Arrive Sunday, July 24 after 3 pm, depart Friday, Aug. 26 after lunch.

Students in this course will live and study at the Cedar Rock Preserve on Shaw Island. Students will be sleeping in tents.

Tuition will be charged but there will be no fee for room and board; a facilities fee will be assessed, cost to be determined

Dr. Elizabeth Wheat
University of Washington
Post-Doctoral Teaching Fellow
Program on the Environment
Education Coordinator – UW Farm

Carson Sprenger
Rain Shadow Consulting
Shaw Island
San Juan Islands

Sustainable Agriculture Semester in the San Juans

“Caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar.”
“There is no path. The path is made by walking.”

-Antonio Machado


• Immerse students in the study of sustainable food production
• Allow students time to reflect deeply on our food system:
• Use the pedagogical technique of experiential education to help students better understand the complexities embodied in dichotomies like: natural/unnatural, organic/conventional, sustainable/extractive.

Courses (total credits 9) – Students must take all three of the following courses:

Sustainable Agriculture (4 credits):

This course will consist of lectures, labs, written assignments and group projects. In it, students will explore the ecological connections of sustainable agriculture. How can agriculture take advantage of the structure of natural systems to help establish and maintain productive farms? This course will cover cropping, crop rotation systems, ruminant animal ecology, introduction to soils (biotic and abiotic components), and vegetable crop production. Students will work in groups to set up and follow field experiments on a sustainable agriculture topic of their choosing.

Forest Ecology (4 credits):

This course will develop students’ understanding of forest ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest. The 370 acre cedar rock preserve consists of broad mixture open fields, woodlands, and several forest types. Much of the forest was logged yet a surprising level of habitat diversity and structural complexity is present. Also, many scattered and fire-scarred old-growth trees can be found—providing clues to the disturbance history of what was once a human maintained landscape. Students will learn to identify common trees and shrubs, learn how forests develop and respond to disturbance, and learn how to assess and characterize different forest types. Students will get a chance to participate in one or more of the forest restoration projects that have been initiated on the preserve. Understanding native ecosystems is the first step in constructing agricultural systems that mimic natural systems in productivity and functionality. This class will build the foundation for students to ask the question: how can a forest be a productive part of a sustainable farm or, alternatively, how can a productive farm be a forest?

The Sustainable Community (1 credits)

Perhaps better titled “The Community Sustained”, this class will devote explicit instructional time to the work of developing the skills necessary to create and participate in a sustainable community. During this semester students will be living communally in satellite housing. Students will work together to prepare meals using food grown on the farm and will take turns caring for the community kitchen – for some students this will be their first experience helping prepare meals from ‘scratch.’ Students will keep weekly journals reflecting on assigned readings about sustainable communities as well as documenting their own experiences living in and working as part of an intentional community.

Enrollment limited to 15. For more information, contact Elizabeth Wheat.

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