Taking a break from harvesting rice in the mountains of Chiang Dao.


  • Sociology/Biology


  • Agroecology surveys of fields and forests
  • Work in gardens and fields
  • Organic composting
  • Learn plant propagation
  • Selling vegetables in the market with host families
  • Day and evening talks with villagers and agriculture development workers
  • Experiential learning in tribal (Palong/Lahu) villages and lowland (Khon Müang) villages


  • Extensive hiking while in the villages (to upland fields, etc.)
  • Travel out to village sites and study areas


  • Group housing at the Upland Holistic Development Project
  • Homestays in Mae Taa villages with farming families


  • Fang (Chiang Mai Province)
  • Mae Taa (Lamphun Province)


  • There are two parts of the syllabus: The syllabus with the readings and lectures as well as the Activity Field Guide (Experiential Field Studies) that detail the experiential learning portion of the course. BOTH should be read to understand the flow, learning progression and topics covered during the course.
  • Fields Syllabus (PDF)
  • Experiential Field Studies (PDF)

Sustainable Food Systems

Social and Biological Factors in Sustainable Agriculture

ECODEV 400, 4 Credits

This course examines in depth both the context and practice of agroecology and sustainable agriculture.  These issues form the core of sustainability, and include such topics as ecology and natural resource management, food supply, and the role of biological and sociological systems in global sustainability. Seminars and discussions  take place “in context” to the learning— i.e. reading about agroforestry, then going into an agroforest to study the plants growing there.  This is—literally—a “hands on” course. Students will get muddy tramping through the fields, blisters from working on the farm, and tired from hiking up into remote villages.

Learning outcomes

  • Understanding of the key issues in sustainable agriculture and agroecology
  • Understanding the biological processes within agroecosystems
  • Knowledge of significant plants used in agroforests and agroecological farms
  • Understanding of the sociological dynamics related to agriculture for both upland and lowland peoples of Northern Thailand
  • Ability to successfully carry out the basic tasks related to sustainable agriculture, including composting, natural pesticide production, gardening skills and related tasks
  • Biological field survey methods, especially as related to agroforests and integrated farming
  • Sociological survey methods, including competency in village-level surveys of farmers
  • Proficiency with the tools of field research, including farm and village survey techniques, and the ability to carry out basic socioeconomic assessments in Thai
  • Ability to carry out cross-farm and cross-village transect surveys
  • Knowledge of the struggles related to creating sustainable communities and people’s movements related to sustainable agriculture