Universities Develop Sustainable Food Systems

By Alex Ageno | Urban Agriculture, Urban Farming
The university is a haven for innovation and advancement in many fields. Within a university ideas blossom, problems are tackled, and positive solutions show up in the real world after spread and implementation. Since sustainability is a thriving sector of the university system, it only makes sense that universities are changemakers across numerous niches.  Sustainable food systems is one such niche explored within universities.
Here are three examples of universities implementing sustainable food supply systems. Through their collective efforts, they’re leaving a positive mark and improving the state of food security.

University of North Carolina’s Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention is a leading in sustainable agriculture research. Image via StateUniversity.com

1. The University of North Carolina and Chapel Hill

Ranked as the eighth most sustainable university in the world by UI’s Greenmetric Ranking, UNC is a forward thinking, sustainable college in many ways. In keeping with this tradition, UNC is making a positive impact on sustainable food supply. The UNC Center For Health Promotion and Disease Prevention has dedicated research to help remedy local food issues, in order to help sustainable agriculture gain steam in the public.

In general, the Center conducts research on sustainable issues pertaining to food, and this research in turn is used to help community-based organizations develop sustainable food systems. Professors at the college have offered their expertise, even so far as to serve relevant committees – national, state, etc. – pertaining to sustainability. The Center also offers education to students in order to help spread sustainable ideas.

Aside from general education and offering help to those who wish to take advantage of sustainable food system, UNC has also funded projects that aim to foster sustainable food systems and other related beneficial systems. Though some have ended, they remain shining examples that many other universities can take inspiration from. The University has contributed towards local sustainability with the following projects:

  • Gillings Innovation Laboratory Sustainable Agriculture Project
  • Carolina Campus Community Garden
  • Food Corps
  • Produce Packs
  • Black Land Loss
  • Faith, Food, and Farming
  • Coley Springs Mission Baptist Church Harvest of Hope Garden and Farm Project

Oregon State University is a proponent of sustainable food systems. Image via OSU.

2. Oregon State University

Oregon State University, located in Corvallis, Oregon, is another forward thinking university when it comes to sustainability. The Department of Horticulture at OSU is the genesis where OSU is positively making an impact on sustainable food and farming systems.  The department has done well to positively contribute to numerous facets of urban agriculture.

The program has outlined three main areas of interest: outreach and extension, research, and learning. Through outreach and extension, OSU faculty members work beyond the university system in order to help solve problems within the field beyond the university. OSU’s research on sustainable farming methods has been adapted by numerous growers beyond the university.  Finally, the department is dedicated to providing education for students by designing their courses to around sustainable food systems.

In addition, OSU’s Horticulture department also has numerous projects and programs to their name; including projects and programs that are relevant to sustainable food systems. These include:


Clemson University’s Student Organic Farm models a CSA program. Image via Clemson.edu

3. Clemson University

Clemson University, located in South Carolina, is a haven for sustainability through their Sustainable Agriculture Program. Their program provides education, outreach, research, and community benefits. Many relevant individuals in the field provide input into the program, including agriculture professionals, farmers, and non-government representatives. Their program was awarded the “Institution of the Year” award from the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association in 2004.

The Southern SARE Professional Development Program, that ran from 2005 to 2008, helped incorporate sustainability into numerous programs and training modules for agricultural professionals. Students and related people of the program have also contributed to a positive outcome through numerous sustainable agriculture projects. Clemson also has a student organic farm, which is run by their own students and is designed to foster sustainable agriculture. The farm is home to research, growth, and production, and contributes to the many benefits that their activities provide.

Related to the Student Organic Farm, Clemson University also features their own Campus Supported Agriculture Market Program (CSA), described as a “public outreach effort”. They model their program “after the Community Supported Agriculture concept whereby members buy seasonal shares in exchange for weekly supplies of produce and cut flowers.”  Through their program, farmers and community members gain mutual support, fresh food, economic benefits, and help the environment in numerous ways.

About The Author

Alex Ageno earned his degree in Urban Planning in 2013 from Arizona State University. Alex's interests in Urban Planning include Urban Design, Sustainability, Form Based Codes, Zoning, and Environmental Planning. He resides in Arizona.