CRD 20: Food Systems is a lower-division class offered at UC Davis in Community and Regional Development. Taught by Ryan Galt in the Department of Human and Community Development, the class uses perspectives from the social sciences and involves lab time where students do fieldwork to answer research questions they create about the food system. The class was created by Ryan Galt over a year-long collaboration with Damian Parr, and in consultation with Lori Thorp at Michigan State University, and Julia Van Soelen Kim, Maggie Lickter, Jessy Beckett, Libby O'Sullivan, Mark Van Horn, and Heidi Ballard.

At Soil Born Farm At Veritable Vegetable At Alhamra Pakistani & Indian Restaurant Mind map of the food system, aggregated from 2008 students' mind maps at the end of class

Fall 2010

The course is being offered in Fall 2010.

Lecture time and place: T & R 3:10 to 4:30 p.m., 184 Young

Lab time and place: W 9:00 to 11:50 a.m., 105 Bowley; CRN 56757 W 12:10 to 3:00 p.m., 105 Bowley; CRN 56768 W 3:10 to 6:00 p.m., 105 Bowley; CRN 56769

Course Description from 2009

CRD 20 2010 Flyer Ever think about your food, where it comes from, and how it got to your plate? Do you wonder about who produces it, and what they get out of the deal? Why do so many go hungry in our world while others can afford to buy “jet fresh” produce flown in from all corners of the globe? Why did food start traveling so far anyway, with farmers and consumers often thousands of miles apart? Why is a large portion of the population in wealthier nations getting heavier, and what should we do about it? Does the fair trade coffee you drink (or consider drinking) actually make a difference for small coffee farmers? Should you eat organic, or become a vegetarian, a vegan, or a “locavore” (New Oxford American Dictionary’s 2007 word of the year)? Why are farmworkers an exploited segment of the population, what challenges exist in organizing for social justice, and where have there been successes? Who benefits most, and who and what is most harmed, by the current social and environmental arrangements that put food on our plates? And, perhaps most importantly, who is doing what to address these various issues and problems? If you are interested in these and related questions, Food Systems is a course for you.

Through the lens of the social sciences, this course addresses these and other questions. It focuses on the whole food system from farm to fork (and back again) to assess the possibilities for sustainability and equity. The course emphasizes the societal context of food systems by positioning them within a capitalist economy and looking at the broader social purpose of food systems, including the often contradictory goals of nourishment, productivity, profit, and exerting power. We examine historical and geographical contexts and aim to understand food systems’ impacts on producers’ livelihoods, communities, and the environment. Students are introduced to a number of social science perspectives and concepts drawn largely from anthropology, geography, and sociology to develop an interdisciplinary understanding of food systems.

Students use laboratory time to develop knowledge and skills used to analyze the various locations within food systems. Labs are used for field trips that explore the positions of different people in the food system both on and off campus, for participatory activities, and for wide-ranging discussion. We will visit farms, food distribution and processing centers, retail locations, places of consumption, and other locations, almost all of which are determined by student input. Activities include researching various aspects of the food system and creating multi-media presentations.

CRD 20 complements Plant Sciences (PLS) 15: Introduction to Sustainable Agriculture, by providing a largely social science perspective on food and agriculture within the context of an interdisciplinary understanding of sustainability. Both courses form the introduction to a proposed major in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems at UC Davis.

Course Materials from 2009

Course materials for CRD 20 can be found here:

Ryan Galt, Genna Lipari (CRD 20 2009 student) and Jessy Beckett (CRD 20 2009 TA) discuss the approach to the class in a presentation to UC Davis faculty. This was filmed by Any Jones at the Teaching Resources Center for the Faculty Mentoring Faculty Program.

Course Evaluations

For students' views about the class posted on RateMyProfessor, see here:

Because of his work in this and other classes, Ryan was nominated for the 7th annual ASUCD Excellence in Education Award, 2008-2009, and was one of three finalists in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (which has 300+ teaching faculty) for the 8th annual ASUCD Excellence in Education Award, 2009-2010.


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