A growing student interest in sustainable food and farming systems that are good for people and the environment has led to new classes and development of a new major at UC Davis.

Sustainable food and agricultural systems that integrate environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic fairness are becoming universally recognized as the direction society must go, according to UC Davis researchers implementing the new major.

Starting this year, new freshman-level courses in food systems and sustainable agriculture and an upper-division course in agroecology, the study of the ecology of the entire food system, will be offered.

The new major is expected to be approved within the next 18 months. It is a collaborative effort by the UC Davis Agricultural Sustainability Institute (ASI) and affiliated faculty and staff, and will provide students with a broad background in sustainable agricultural and food systems, according to Institute Director Tom Tomich.

"The skills and knowledge gained through this broad, interdisciplinary curriculum will prepare graduating students to become leaders in sustainable agriculture in California and throughout the nation," said Tomich.

Will Horwath, professor of soil science, is chair of the sustainable agriculture major implementation committee.

While a formal major in sustainable agriculture and food systems is a new initiative for UC Davis, both field-based and classroom-based interdisciplinary sustainable agriculture learning opportunities have been available to students at the UC Davis Student Farm for more than three decades, said Farm Director Mark Van Horn.