Starting on July 26, students at five Washington and Oregon liberal arts colleges including Whitman College will have the chance to join "Foodsystems Northwest: Circuits of Soil, Labor, and Money," a new course studying locally grown food and its impact on our lives, economy and politics.
This collaborative, three-week course is a pilot project of the Northwest Five Consortium, a two-year-old collaboration between Whitman, Lewis & Clark College (Portland), University of Puget Sound (Tacoma, Wash.), Reed College (Portland) and Willamette University (Salem, Ore.). The NW5C is supported by an $800,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Foodsystems Northwest students will live, eat, travel and study together under the direction of four professors from three member colleges, with field trips to dairy farms, apple terminals, chicken plants, urban gardens, organic farms and more, as they trace the themes of soil, labor and money across the Northwest foodscape.
The course begins at Whitman College with a focus on the political economy of the food system, turning a global lens on the industrial wheat farms, chicken processing plants and large-scale dairy operations of the Walla Walla Valley. From there, the class will travel to University of Puget Sound, where the focus will shift to urban agriculture and food justice. Students will address questions of poverty and access to food, urban planning and the challenges of growing food in the city of Tacoma.
Finally, the students will travel to Willamette University where they will live and work at the student-operated Zena Forest & Farm, putting sustainable agriculture methods into practice and exploring the opportunities and obstacles associated with smaller-scale, organic farming in the Willamette Valley.
"Whitman chose to become involved because, in the context of the NW5C, there are learning opportunities that our faculty and students can take advantage of that would not have been possible, or even conceived of, independently," said Kendra Golden, associate dean for academic affairs. "The Foodsystems course is a perfect example of a collaborative teaching and learning experience that capitalizes on the expertise of multiple faculty members and the unique locations of our disparate campuses. The format gives our students the chance to engage with and benefit from the larger educational community in the Pacific Northwest."
The course is the first for-credit offering from the NW5C partnership, which allows small, private, nonprofit colleges to share teaching and study resources while enriching the expertise of faculty. Students also gain a broader perspective by working with classmates from other locales and by learning from experience in the field.
The faculty members teaching the course are: Emelie Peine, lead instructor and assistant professor in international political economy at University of Puget Sound; Jennifer Johns, associate director of Sustainable Agriculture Programs at Willamette University; Peter Wimberger, biology professor and director of the Slater Museum of Natural History at University of Puget Sound; and Whitman's Aaron Bobrow-Strain, associate professor of politics.
To learn more about the Northwest Five Consortium visit nw5c.org.