FSE-21306 Exploring the Future of Food and Farming


Studiepunten 6.00

Group work3
Excursion (one day)11
Course coordinator(s)prof. dr. ir. RPO Schulte
BR van Pelt
Lecturer(s)A Schrijver
BR van Pelt
AC Hoes
EK Freed
prof. dr. ir. RPO Schulte
dr. ir. HHE van Zanten
EL Dingkuhn
prof. dr. ir. C Leeuwis
KV Koppelmäki
Examiner(s)prof. dr. ir. RPO Schulte

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

Basic knowledge of Agricultural production.


Our foodscape is rapidly changing. The sustainability of our food system is now the subject of daily societal discussions. Consumers are now presented with an colorful choice of organic, sustainable, local, artisan and healthy labels, not only in farmers markets but increasingly in mainstream supermarkets At the same time many organic farmers find themselves in tumultuous times, the chicken sector is in shock due to the fipronil crisis and the dairy sector is searching to reinvent itself due to the confluence of economic and environmental constraints.
But if everyone agrees on the need to produce and consume more sustainably, then why is it so difficult to change the food system? Despite all good intentions, only 6% of land in the European Union is farmed organically. With so many farmers and initiatives showing that sustainable food production is feasible, how can we bridge the gap between “thinking solutions” and “making change happen”? To answer that question, we first need to understand the very different worlds, realities, ambitions and constraints of the many actors in the sustainable food system.
In the course Organic Agriculture and Society we take an in-depth look at the different perspectives of the different actors along the organic supply chain. For example, an organic farmer experiences different constraints and possible solutions than the manager of an organic supermarket or the food policy worker of the local municipality.
In the course we literally follow the supply chain. We start the course in by taking a look at the big picture; what is happening on a global scale to warrant a radical redesign of our food sector, what do we find in our local foodscape and where do we stand in relation to food initiatives in the agri-food sector. We then jump right in to the organic supply chain, starting with the farmer and then via the retail chain we eventually end up with the consumer and policy actors. We end the course in the final week by taking a step back and reflecting on what the future has in store for the organic sector and presenting the students’ ideas/plans for bridging the think-do gap in agriculture. We begin each week on Mondays with an in-depth lecture focussed on the theme of the week, which is then followed by excursions on Tuesdays and Wednesdays where we will engage with actors along the supply chain and see how it works in the field, Thursdays will be reserved for tutorials where will discuss what has been read, seen and heard during the week and Fridays are reserved for the groups to work on their project.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- state the contemporary discourse on sustainable food production and the role of organic farming within this;
- explain the guiding principles, practices and values of actors in the organic food system;
- appraise the diverse societal expectations vis-à-vis sustainable food production;
- map the relationships, motivations and constraints of farmers, industry, policy, consumers, markets and NGO’s;
- develop and plan for bridging the think-do gap towards sustainable transitions.


Lectures will be given by both WUR staff and guest lectures and take place on Monday. During lectures, key components of the entire organic production chain will be outlined. The lecture slides will be available on Brightspace. Active participation and attendance of lectures are required since they also entail discussions, assignments, and group activities and are therefore integral part of this course. Students are expected to read a selection of scientific papers supporting the lectures. Links to these papers will be made available on Brightspace.
Tutorials will take place each Thursday. There will be a variety of methods used; presentations on the excursions, assignments, exam practice questions, or reflection sessions all of which are meant to reinforce learning from readings, lectures and excursions.
Excursions will usually happen on Tuesday and/or Wednesday’s. Practical information for each excursion will be provided through Blackboard. Most excursions are reachable by bike, a bus will be arranged for excursions which are more than a 30 minute biking distance. Students are welcome to arrange their own transport if they prefer to go by car. Please note that if you are not able to bike you need to communicate this to the course coordinator at the start of the course so other arrangements can be made. One of the excursions is to a local restaurant; a €5 contribution is required for this excursion to cover the costs of the meal.
Group project
Students will work in groups to map the relationships, motivations and constraints of farmers, industry, policy, consumers, markets and NGO’s and develop and plan for bridging the ‘think-do’ gap towards a sustainable system. Groups are free to choose a topic of their choice, more information on the group project will be provided at the end of week 1. Time and space is reserved each Thursday and Friday for group work.


- written exam (50%);
- group report (50%).
All components have to be completed with a mark of 5.5 or higher.


All reading material will be will be provided via links in Brightspace.

Verplicht voor: MOADDSpec. Agroecology DDMSc1MO
Keuze voor: MOAOrganic AgricultureMSc1MO