An initiative of the National Council for Workforce Education, the Sustainability Education and Economic Development Center (SEED) supports community colleges and their partners with curriculum and resources to transform educational programs for a sustainable future.

Sustainable and regenerative agriculture

Conventional agriculture is responsible for almost a quarter of the global greenhouse emissions. These emissions are primarily caused by deforestation, emissions from livestock, and improper soil nutrient management. The term “sustainable agriculture” was defined in 1977 by the USDA as an integrated system of environmentally-friendly methods of farming that allow the production of crops or livestock in a manner that prevents adverse effects to soil, water, biodiversity, surrounding or downstream resources—as well as to those working or living on the farm or in neighboring areas. The goal of sustainable agriculture is to meet society’s food and textile needs in the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Regenerative agriculture aims to improve and/or regenerate a healthier environment and ensure economic sustainability. Regenerative agriculture improves soil health, reduces erosion, and preserves soil biodiversity while increasing disease resistance.

The sustainable food sector refers to food that is locally grown, sustainably produced, fresher, more nutritious, better tasting, travels fewer miles and causes fewer carbon emissions. It encompasses all aspects of local, urban, and organic food production.  Changes in consumer demand for food, food experience, food security, eating habits and lifestyles have opened the door to a host of economic and agricultural career opportunities for those who grow, package, market and distribute high-profit specialty and artisanal items.

Community Colleges and Sustainable Agriculture

Community colleges can be part of the framework needed to grow, harvest, transport, market, sell, prepare, and serve healthy, locally grown, sustainable food. Community colleges should offer programs on sustainable agriculture principles for rural and urban farmers as well as career pathway education for food entrepreneurs and food processors.

  • Use campus facilities as living laboratories to demonstrate innovative technology and best practices such as water-conserving irrigation, energy-efficient greenhouses, cold weather crops, and permaculture.
  • Include local and sustainable foods in culinary arts programs and incorporate locally grown food into college dining service menus and campus catering services.
  • Promote the health benefits of locally grown produce to students and the community as part of health and wellness initiatives.
  • Work with their local communities to offer community garden plots and hosting farmers’ markets.
  • Initiate compost programs to reduce waste on college campuses.
  • Utilize less pesticides and incorporate ecological pest management practices on campus.