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Charles R. Hale, Director SRH 1.310, 2300 Red River Street D0800, Austin, TX 78712 • 512.471.5551

Spring 2006


Unique Days Time Location Instructor
39877 MWF
11:00 AM-12:00 PM
GRG 316

Course Description

This course focuses on what are increasingly being referred to as "indigenously developed," and what used to be call "traditional" farming methods, and techniques. Such practices are those not dependent of either fossil fuels, chemical fertilizers, or other external inputs. They are typically small in scale, involving for the most part the labor of individuals, families, and communities. Emphasis is placed on those systems most commonly used in various parts of the world today and in times past Agriculture is treated here as the transformation of biophysical, sometimes referred to inappropriately as "natural," environments, into "cultural" environments. It is assessed in regard to both the plants cultivated (crops), and the soil, slope, moisture, and temperature conditions that exist and those that are either modified or created by farmers. The processes involved in the domestication of both crops and landscapes are discussed. Ecological and systematic approaches are taken in order to understand how different agricultural strategies insure continual long-term productivity and stability similar to that characteristic of environments that are not cultivated. Microeconomics are all-important. The various "agro-ecosystems" are also discussed as economic activities that have highly visible spatial manifestations that result in distinctive cultural landscapes, and as activities that are dynamic, changing continuously. Development is treated conceptually as a specific type of change, not necessarily as a goal. It is envisaged as improvement in land productivity.  It is the opposite of land degradation. Agricultural features such as terraces and canals are considered "landesque capital." This is not a "how to" course for tree-hugging, granola-eating acolytes of John Muir who wish to remold the world into some unrealistic utopia. This course is not about developing "sustainable agriculture," per se.  It does, however, deal with issues of concern in the emerging field of sustainability science.  This course is intended for students who wish to gain a better understanding of the complexity of human-environment interactions, particularly as they pertain to people feeding themselves. 

Grading Policy

Graduate Students " Three two-part examinations.  The first part of each exam consists of 33 multiple choice questions worth 2.5 points each.  The second part of each is an essay question worth 17.5 points.  The essay questions for the first two exams will be done outside of class ("take-home").  The essay question for the third exam will be done in class, during the exam period.  Each exam is worth 25 % of the course grade (75 % total) " One class lecture worth 25% " Class participation.  Same as for undergraduate students (see above).


Collections of readings to be purchased at Jenn's Copy Service, 2200 Guadalupe Street ( in the basement of the Church of Scientology building) " Undergraduate Students: Two packets. One packet, labeled GRG 339K, is to be purchased at the beginning of the semester. The second packet, labeled GRG 339K Supplement, is to be purchased ca. 20 April. " Graduate Students: Three packets and one book. One packet labeled GRG 339K and one labeled GRG 390S are to be purchased at the beginning of the semester. The third packet, labeled GRG 339K Supplement, is to be purchased ca. 20 April. Ester Boserup, The Conditions of Agricultural Growth: The Economics of Agrarian Change Under Population Pressure. Covelo: Island Press, 1993, approx. $19.95.


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