CSS 224: Sustainable Farm & Food System Field Course

SAFS offers a field course touring farm and food system entities in Michigan each Fall semester. Several aspects of the course are shared across undergraduate (ANS/CSS/CSUS/HRT 224) and graduate (CSS 893) SAFS courses.

This experiential course takes students to farms, food processors, distributors, and retailers, and food service of many scales. Each food system entity is embedded in a unique environment, community, and market that helps students understand the place-based imperative of sustainability. We encourage conversation and interaction with our host farms and practitioners, as well as peer-to-peer learning in a welcoming environment. Students new to agricultural and food systems studies and those who have deep roots from their own experiences all discover new perspectives, creative practices, and valuable insights.

Contact the SAFS advisor for course, enrollment, or accessibility questions beyond this page.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand multiple farm and food system elements, including agronomic, economic, social, and scale aspects
  • Interact professionally with farmers and food system practitioners to better understand the opportunities and constraints of their businesses, and to advance your soft skills
  • Learn to engage in discourse about agriculture and food systems, especially in regarding to sustainability and resilience of the systems
  • Recognize the strengths and shortcomings of different approaches to evaluating the sustainability of agriculture and food system entities

Course Design

This course is a  includes three off-campus field trips to farm and food system sites in Michigan. Please be sure to check the course listing (and below) for the specific field trip dates, as they change annually to accommodate other campus events.

Meeting Times

Friday meetings on campus: 3-4:30pm
Sept. 6, and 27; Oct 11, 18 and 25

Tentative Field Trip Dates 2024:

  • Friday afternoon Sept. 13th 2PM - 7PM (includes dinner)
  • Saturday Sept. 21st, 8AM -6PM
  • Saturday Oct. 5th, 8AM -6PM

Materials and Fees

Reading Materials

Any additional reading materials and links to each field site will be posted on the D2L course site. Shared readings may be selected by students.

At this time, we do not have field trip fees.


As we will be visiting farms and rural areas that may not have ADA requirements, we want to make sure we can make these experiences as accessible as possible to every student. Please contact the SAFS advisor with any concerns you may have, and we will work to accommodate you to our greatest capacity. 

Not that particular farms and businesses may require additional health and safety protocols for the protection of the animals or consumers.

Assignments & Grades



Attendance & Participation
Intro Meeting

Ecology Walk

Landscape Walk

Field Tour #1

Field Tour #2

Field Tour #3

Class Unpacking Discussions (3 @ 50 each)










Online Discussion & Reflection (6 @ 50 each)

Final - brief reflective video



Total possible

1000 points /10 = Numerical Grade


Discussion Reflections - submitted online

You are responsible for a written reflection entry after each designated tour or course meeting. For each discussion, submit your post (40 points) by Wednesday following the tour or meeting, and at least one meaningful response to another student (10 points) by the following Friday at 12 pm noon. Specific guidance on the content and length of your posts is available on in the course site, and is reviewed in our first meeting. We expect thoughtful reflections that demonstrate sustainability literacies of systems, values, strategic, and futures thinking.


Final - submitted online

A final assignment is due before the end of the course. This reflection should demonstrate your ability to connect and relate course concepts, experiences, and learning objectives, and to articulate what you've gained through active participation in the field visits and discussions. 


Graduate Student Assignments

The SAFS program director Dr. Katherine Alaimo and graduate students will determine any additional course requirements or assessment options. Please be sure to reach out to the director before the start of our class activities to finalize your plan.