12 April 2011

Food & Agri-culture from Buenos Aires to Lima @ 10mph


CFAN3480, GLOS3900, CFAN3000H, or AGRO5999
(Course Numbers: 34502, 34795, 35332, 17143)
3 credits
Wednesdays, 6:00-9:00pm
335 Borlaug Hall (UMN) 

Proviso: Although this course will be conducted at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (specifically the St. Paul campus) and not at my academic homebase, I believe this an innovative approach to (a)teaching, (b)learning, (c)social media int the classroom, (d)community-based and experiential learning models, (e)food systems research. You might not be able to enroll in the course for academic credit (unless you are planning to study "abroad" at [or transfer to] UMN next semester) but I encourage you to follow Dr. Porter's blog/website to keep up with his travels and observations. And, if time and finances permit, I definitely encourage you to participate in a trans-continental bicycle tour (or race) with Tour d’Afrique (a great guiding company). Such an excursion might seem to more closely resemble a relaxing (albeit rather active) holiday, but the outcome of any sort travel/tourism is intimately related to the effort (speaking here of the intellectual sense of the word) you put in. Porter's decision to use the bicycle tour as a means to better understand the South American foodscape is intriguing for a variety of reason (think pace, scale, observational perspective, etc.), but is largely dependent upon his aptitude for critical engagement and reflective thought. 

Instructors: Paul Porter and Mary Brakke

Description: This course provides students with an introduction to food, agriculture and agroecosystems in four South American countries (Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru).  Dr. Paul Porter will participate in the Vuelta Sudamericana, a bicycle expedition departing Buenos Aires, Argentina on September 25 and arriving in Lima, Peru on December 13.  As he travels he will be observing the food, agriculture and agroecosystems and relate these observations back to the class.  Thus Dr. Porter will be in the classroom just at the start of the semester, and bicycling in South America the remainder of the semester.   The class will be co-taught with Dr. Mary Brakke, who will be with the class the whole semester.  This class is an interdisciplinary approach to studying agricultural systems.  We will evaluate various crops produced in the different countries, assess water availability, climate, physical infrastructure such as roads, and explore economic considerations such as market development, availability of credit, and community co-ops.  We will learn about multiple agricultural research organizations located in these countries and how their research objectives relate to agriculture and food security. 

The class will involve as a series of faculty guest lectures covering a wide array of professional activities in South America.  Dr. Porter will to provide daily written and audio-blogs of his experiences, focusing on food, agriculture and agroecosystems (and to a lesser extent the ride itself).  He will also have direct weekly phone conversations back to the students in the classroom.  His daily blogs will include 1) the ending location, distance traveled and elevation, 2) an assessment of the water situation and climate, 3) a description of the food he eats and what the local population eats, 4) an assessment of the agroecosystems, 5) an assessment of the culture and infrastructure, and 6) a conversation, sight, and/or reflection for the day.  In 2009 and 2010, with the same focus on food, agriculture and agroecosystems, Dr. Porter traveled over 7,200 miles with other bicyclers from Tour d’Afrique (TDA) starting in Cairo, Egypt and ending in Cape Town, South Africa.  Students will be exposed to a summary of experiences through videos, photos and web postings. 

There will be no textbook for the class. Students will be expected to read postings provided on Moodle as well as selected websites (such as http://paulporter.cfans.umn.edu).  The target audience includes students at any grade level from any college who have an interest in 'coming along' for the ride and learning more about food, agriculture and agroecosystems four South American countries. Also in this class students will gain firsthand experience eating food from a local restaurant specializing in South American cuisine.

On a related note (and since I'm a huge advocate of bicycles), here's a thought-provoking and research-related video. Discuss...