Courses & Programs

Sustainable Agriculture

As concerns grow about what to eat and where our food comes from, we need to be more informed about what our food choices are and how we can ensure the safety of our food.

Kathleen Maiolatesi

Faculty, Sustainability

Science, Engineering & Math

Marieb 235

413.552.2462 (Tel)

What will you learn?

This program will inform students about the political and economic considerations about our local and global food systems, as well as the scientific principles of the sustainable agricultural practice of growing food according to ecological principles and therefore protecting the environment while providing food, and how the diversity and stability of anagro ecosystem are superior to conventional agricultural systems.

Students will be ready for careers in sustainable farming, participation in setting agricultural policy, food system planning, food related enterprises and food science, as well as transfer to area four year colleges' agriculture programs. 


Upon completion of this program the student will be able to:

  • Understand the difference between industrialized, traditional, conventional, organic and permaculture farming practices.
  • Understand how environmental factors including light, temperature, humidity and soil pH contribute to the health of crops.
  • Understand how our food system contributes to the health of our entire ecosystem.
  • Understand how our food choices contribute to our own health as well as the health of our planet.
  • Demonstrate proficiency in growing food crops.

Continue your education or enter the workforce! Sustainable Agriculture prepares students for careers in sustainable farming, participation in setting agricultural policy, food system planning, food related enterprises and food science.

61-63 total credits

35-36 credits General Education Requirements + 14 credits Program Requirements

General Education Requirements

This course is the first half of the college composition sequence and focuses on close reading, critical thinking, beginning research skills, and the writing process. Students will read, analyze, and cite a range of nonfiction texts. Students will produce several formal essays totaling approximately 3000 words. Prerequisite: Appropriate scores on English placement tests or C- or higher in ENG 095.
This course is the second half of the first-year composition sequence and focuses on close reading, critical thinking, academic writing, research, and the writing process. Students will locate and evaluate both primary and secondary sources, and will gain skill in summarizing and synthesizing source material while employing MLA documentation. Texts will include a range of nonfiction (articles, essays, scholarly sources) and literary works. Students will produce at least 3000 words of formal written work, including a documented essay of at least 1250 words. Prerequisite: ENG 101 with a grade of C-or higher.
Introduction to the study and principles of behavior. Topics include general principles of scientific investigation; physiological bases of behavior including sensation, perception, learning, emotion, and motivation; development; individual differences; attitudes; and group dynamics. Prerequisite: Eligibility for ENG 101.
This is a survey of the emerging field of ecopsychology, an integration of ecology and psychology. By drawing upon the science of ecology to re-examine the human psyche as an integral part of nature, ecopsychology attempts to inspire lifestyles that are both ecologically sustainable and psychologically healthy. This course provides an overview of the psychological principles and practices relevant to environmental education and action, while exploring the contributions of ecological thinking and values of the natural world to psychotherapy and personal growth. Prerequisite: PSY 110
A college-level course including more advanced topics in algebra, functions, graphs, and problem solving. Prerequisite: MTH 095 or MTH 099 with a grade of C- or better; or completion Module 18 in the self-paced MTH 02X sequence, or adequate score on the Mathematics Placement Examination.
Graphical description of data, measures of central tendency and variability, probability and probability distributions, central limit theorem, estimation of parameters, testing hypotheses, regression and correlation, analysis of variance, and other topics in statistical inference. Prerequisite: MTH 085 or MTH 099 with a grade of C- or better; or SM12, or adequate score on the Mathematics Placement Examination.
Environmental history examines how humans and nature have interacted through time and with what results. The natural environment (water, land, climate, geological changes, disease, plant and animal ecology, etc.) and human factors (population, capitalism, technology, social relations, cultural attitudes, etc.) from an interrelated system. However, the environmental history of a period and place is a matter of interpretation, and this course actively explores the many facets of this new field of study. As an introduction to interpreting America's environmental past, students will explore such themes as Native American ecology, hunting, the impact of agriculture, mining, industrialization, as well as the emergence of ecology and the modern environmental movement. Prerequisite: Eligibility for English 101
Today and throughout history, some of the greatest works of literature, culture, politics, and spirituality have been rooted in the earth (to use an earthly metaphor). This class will explore various forms of literature to seek a deeper appreciation of how the world's most engaging thinkers human and non-human have embraced the beauty of the world around us and pondered the awe-inspiring power of our environment. Prerequisite: ENG 102
The choices we make in our everyday eating habits, whether we choose to eat fast food, or healthy meals, has an impact on the sustainability of our environment. Choosing to eat locally grown, organic produce can help to preserve our soil, water and biodiversity resources while reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. This course will examine the history of agriculture, how contemporary food culture is defined, and current agricultural practices, including the use of fertilizers and pesticides. Scientific analysis of soil and water will be included. Students will explore a variety of farming practices while working in community-based field labs at a local farm and at the HCC organic garden.
This course will cover the fundamentals of system- level ecological interactions, such as populationecology and stability, as applied to sustainable agricultural systems. In addition, we will explore ways to make the transition to a more sustainable lifestyle through participation in a local food system. Topics covered will include GMO's, species interactions in agricultural systems and landscape diversity. The laboratory will include composting, worm castings, green manures and cover crops.
This course is an introduction to the study of the different approaches to how one should treat the natural environment. Beginning with a historical overview of various indigenous technical and cultural knowledges, and then progressing to assess literature on environmental concerns, the course will proceed to interrogate such philosophical concepts as ecology, alienation, web of relations, dominant hierarchies, stewardship, survival, among others. Finally, more recent developments in contemporary philosophy such as ecofeminism, naturalist ethics, and ecological postmodernism will be explored.
Conventional (neoclassical) economics assumes that the economy can continue to grow forever, that well-being is determined only by market goods, and that people always act selfishly. Ecological economics in contrast, starts from the understanding that the economy is a sub-system of the global environment, and subject to its bio-physical limits. In addition, human well-being is determined by many other factors besides market goods: friendship, love, status, rights, freedom, etc. and that human behavior is far more complex than simple self-interest.The primary insight of ecological economics is that the human economy is part of the global environmental system. Ecological economics situates human activity within the environment, and the study of the natural environment includes human interests and activities. Ecological economics is a systems approach with a global perspective on human resource use, economic development, and the environment. Ecological economics is concerned not only, like other economists, with efficiency and equity, but also with environmental and social sustainability.This course provides a historical overview of various schools of economic thought, presents the major principles required to fuse ecology with economics, and helps students to analyze economic policies under the lens of ecological reality. Particular attention is paid to economic growth theory and policy as it pertains to the sustainability of human society and management of natural resources. This is a transdisciplinary course, incorporating relevant principles and practices from political science, economics, psychology, philosophy, the natural sciences and physics.Prerequisite: Any ECN course with a passing grade of C- or eligibility for MTH 095, or by permission of instructor.

Program Requirements

This course is an overview of the major principles and techniques required for the detailed investigation and documentation of soil conditions. Consideration is given to the physical and chemical properties of soil development. Topics to be covered include soil forming factors, soil profile genesis, layer and horizon nomenclature, soil texture and the applications of soil science to scientific studies. Lecture and field/laboratory exercises are designed to introduce the student to the qualitative and quantitative methods of the soil assessment process. A major component of this course will be a student project that emphasizes field investigation integrated with internet research.
We are faced with many critical problems in the 21st century-species extinction, diminishing energy resources, increasing population, and human civilizations' limited vision of alternatives. Whether humans can learn to manage their life styles in a sustainable manner will impact the long-term survival of all the species on this planet. Students will explore relevant environmental issues, their possible solutions, and the interconnectedness of all lives on Earth. Issues such as energy use, sustaining resource levels, preservation of biodiversity, and community sustainability will be discussed from a scientific perspective. Seminars, laboratory experiments, community-based learning and field trips are all integral components of the course.
Clean energy is becoming a priority as our global community faces the challenge of climate change. At the same time agriculture is changing to meet the needs of a more environmentally aware consuming public. In this intercollegiate and collaborative course students will learn how to apply clean energy technologies to sustainable agriculture practices. This class brings together students at Holyoke Community College, Hampshire College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst to learn a variety of emerging technologies. Topics will include solar, wind, and geothermal technologies, ecological farming, greenhouse management, rainwater collections, root zone heating and considerations of social justice. This course is intended for second year students.Prerequisite: Permission of instructor is required. Field trips will involve physical activity and appropriate dress.



Select 12-14 credits from the below, sufficient to complete 60 credit graduation requirement.

CUL 100  |  Culinary Foundations I
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: Elibility for MTH 085; ENG 095. Pre- or corequisite: CUL 115

ENV 137  |  Environmental Geology [E]
Credits: 4

ENV 150  |  Current Topics in Environmental Science
Credits: 3

NTR 101  |  Introduction to Nutrition
Credits: 3
Prerequisite: Eligibility for ENG 101.

SUS 150  |  Topics in Sustainability Studies
Credits: 3

SUS 115  |  Green Building Practices
Credits: 4

SUS 102  |  Introduction to Clean Energy Resources [E]
Credits: 4
Prerequisites: ENG 101 eligible or ESL 153.

SUS 113  |  Solar Thermal Energy
Credits: 2

SUS 114  |  Solar Photovoltaics 
Credits: 2

SUS 119  | Sustainable Agriculture Internship
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: SUS 116, SUS 216 and SUS 220.

This program qualifies for MassTransfer, which guarantees credit transfer to Massachusetts state colleges and universities. MassTransfer also will grant students automatic acceptance to certain state colleges and universities by achieving the minimum grade point average and the HCC degree.