Discussion Ag Sustainability


This module we are going to do something a little different. Since the purpose of this course is to grow valuable skills for use outside the classroom, we are going to give you a chance to practice and reinforce your understanding of Sustainability by creating a miniature Co-op.

First, I’ll give you the project details then how to run the exercise:

You, the students of PLSCI 31 have decided to come together and pool your resources. You have seen how each of your separate operations has unique challenges and you are looking for ways to add to your product line and reduce your production overhead.

  • You know that great ideas are soon copied and in order to minimize competition with your high value products in the future, you have decided that bringing in your neighbors to help is your best economic strategy since a community based operation will be stronger if you all work together rather than compete with each other for market share. Besides, you are always eager to help others do their best and since nobody is just like you, you know there are enough special high value products out there for everyone in the community to produce. If you are going to ask them for their help, it is only fair for you to help them.
  • After the first couple of organizational meetings, you have convinced the whole group that using the strengths of each member in a group effort will help the community make it through the current recession. Through conversations with your neighbors, you know that the hog farm over by the hill has to get rid of their manure and in turn, they need grain in order to grow out their hogs. Even though they can turn the hogs out on a field for exercise, they are poor grazers and have to have supplemental feed.
  • You have been doing your homework and have seen a number of synergies that can be exploited since the neighbor on your West raises geese and the neighbor on your East needs to have weeding done in the vegetables. You suggest that weeder geese will help both since the geese will keep down some of the weed competition and provide a small bit of fertility while running the geese in the Vegetable fields. In turn, the poultry operation can raise more birds and reduce the risk of disease spread since the flock does not have to be as concentrated all the time
  • It occurs to you that the hogs can also be turned in after the vegetables are through to clean up part of the field before replanting. You know they like to root and although the sweet corn, tomato, beans and squash will rot on their own, it takes a lot of labor and energy to chop up the tomato vines and corn stock so the field can be turned back even to a cover crop. The decision is to try the hogs, after all, if they spread a little bit of their own manure that is a bit less you have to move over from the hog farm and apply.
  • Half way up the hill is a small place next to the lake. Although the creek flowing out of the lake is nothing more than a concrete ditch put in to reduce erosion, the lake itself offers some fishing and the person who lives nearby is keen on raising fish if he can make enough to cut back on irrigating the trees up above the lake.
  • All together, you have around 1500 acres. The hillside accounts for half and except for 20 acres at the bottom of the hill that tends to stay wet most of the year, the rest tends to slope away from the hill towards the highway where you can sell excess production.
  • Now, you know that between all of the members, you have plenty of equipment and enough land to support the group with your production. You simply need to work out how, without investing a lot of money, you can organize the farming operations.

You will need to select ONE issue of sustainability that deals with Energy.

Each of you will need to develop a discussion post in an outline of your thoughts on how to deal with the issues. Your outline will tackle the specific aspect of Energy, and must include a possible solution to one of the problems listed above. While you might not be able to fully develop your ideas, I expect each student response to further develop your idea! Have a fun time with this one everyone!

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