About SAFS

Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems is the name of an undergraduate and graduate academic program at Michigan State University… and so much more!

Student Field Trip Collage

Our Program

The objective of the Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems programs (SAFS) is to foster active learning about the ecological, social and economic aspects of food production through exploring diverse perspectives and experiential learning. The design of the SAFS programs reflects the desire to provide broad and substantial scientific context to the concept of sustainability in agriculture and food systems issues. We aim to foster enthusiastic academic curiosity that leads to life-long learning and engagement with these topics. 

SAFS provides the opportunity to learn and work across many boundaries, fostering a broader understanding of worldviews while developing professional and interpersonal skills relevant in many future career paths. Community-engaged, project-based learning remains core to our undergraduate experience, and this website reflects many of the projects and partnerships that arose from these efforts.

Students from all academic backgrounds and interests are engage in SAFS, as sustainability literacy is pertinent to all future professions. Students from over 20 majors at MSU participate in the SAFS undergraduate minor, and elective courses span several departments. While the home for the programs is the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences, courses developed for the program are interdisciplinary and are cross-listed with several other departments including Horticulture, Animal Sciences, and Community Sustainability.

Our History

The SAFS program is the culmination of more than 10 years of conversation and collaboration between Michigan State University faculty, staff and students passionate about sustainable agriculture and food systems as we entered the 21 century. In 2008, a Quality Fund Grant by the Michigan State University Provost to “enhance academic quality and demonstrably benefit students at MSU” was awarded to create the academic programs for the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems (SAFS) undergraduate specialization (now a minor) and Ecological Food and Farming Systems (EFFS) graduate specialization. The specializations were initiated in the fall of 2009.

The SAFS program transitioned from a specialization to a minor in 2014-2015, and the graduate program was revamped in 2020 and also renamed to SAFS to create a more cohesive, integrated academic program. The concept and design of the SAFS minor now reflects the desire to provide context, learning outcomes and personal development that lead to life-long learning about sustainable agriculture and food systems through critical thought and experiential learning, including the new field course that gets students out of the classroom and into the world.

As the SAFS program matures, our approach to teaching and learning has solidified around Sustainable Literacy, including four “ways of thinking” that create a foundation for sustainable outcomes. This learning style provides transformative opportunities for growth, reflection, increasing agency, and developing a sense of place that are often overlooked when on the college campus. The topic of SAFS continues to garner student interest, and our introductory course has grown to almost 100 students per semester. As different global events, from economic crises to the challenges of the COVID pandemic have made sustainable agriculture and food system literacy a cohesive and enduring interest.

Contact the Program Coordinator for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems: