Agroecology and Organic Gardening Systems

Course Description: 

This course will be an introduction to both the theory of agroecology and the practice of organic gardening techniques. Agroecology is an integrative approach to the study of agriculture that encompasses interactions between agricultural systems and their associated ecosystems, as well as the complexity of the entire food system, including ecological, economic, and social dimensions.

First students will gain an understanding of the interactions between agricultural systems and the environment. We will examine how multiple factors (biological, chemical, and physical) affect integrated crop/livestock systems and we will gain an in-depth understanding of inputs and outputs in agricultural systems and their relation to primary productivity, nutrient cycling, energy flows, and species interactions on farms. Students will integrate concepts across agronomy, ecology, biogeochemistry, and soil science. Students will have a chance to take part in a mini-lab experience to analyze soil quality and plant biology parameters. We will then link these agroecological concepts to practical soil management, crop rotation, companion planting, weed and insect management, and urban composting techniques, as well as garden design and planning based on permaculture principles.

Students will integrate all these elements into a garden design and management plan. They will then learn, and ultimately share with the broader CEU community, the first steps in garden maintenance, including starting seeds, transplanting, weed and pest management, composting, etc.

We will practice agroecology and organic gardening techniques at a farm in Zsambok (near Godollo), as well on the CEU rooftop garden. Students will have a chance to meet with Budapest farm, garden, and market managers and hear about the challenges they face, showcasing the historical and contemporary development of local food systems in Hungary, particularly in and around Budapest. 

Learning Outcomes: 
  •  Understand foundational agroecological principles, including relationships between agricultural systems and surrounding ecosystems
  •  Integrate and synthesize knowledge of agroecology systems to inform organic garden design, including crop selection, crop rotation, and soil, weed, and insect management elements
  • Apply basic practical organic gardening techniques, and reflect on the complexities and challenges of managing an organic garden
  • Explain agroecology principles and demonstrate gardening techniques to others

Assessment: 

  • Class attendance, readings, participation 25%
  • Garden design 25%
  • Volunteer and farm work and journal entries 25%
  • Planning and leading rooftop garden workshop 25%