Sustainable Agriculture

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Summer Academy on Organic Animal Breeding and Organic Husbandry

ekoconnect_logoFor all students interested in temperate regions organic animal husbandry and breeding there is a course this summer in Dresden, Germany from EcoConect e.v and the EU lifelong Learning Program. The Organic Animal Husbandry course takes place from September 7 to the 20th near the center of Dresden through the University of Kassel, Witzenhausen. The expenses will all be covered and 4 credits will be offered for the coursework with the possibility for 6 credits with an extra written work.

LLP logo

Check out the EcoConnect e.v. advertisement (scroll down for English)

Download the English version of the course program

Download the application


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Sustainable Packaging

We are all back in snow covered Witzenhausen and classes are in full swing with all the red cheeked students and a din of inspired conversation. In these first couple of weeks of 2010 we have had a visit from the Vermont Bread and Puppet troop for a puppet making workshop and a theater. We have had visitors from the College of the Atlantic for discussions about the vision for the Trans Atlantic Partnership and opportunities for students to do research and take classes at College of the Atlantic. The Organic Research Center and here in Witzenhausen with Kassel, Göttingen and Fulda.

Dr. Angelica Ploeger’s Sustainable Nutrition class is now concentrating on Life Cycle Assessment. We heard a comparative life cycle analysis of organic and conventional dairy farms from three colleagues and from Phd Candidate Mehrnaz Aminforoughi about on sustainability in milk packaging. The really intriguing thing about all this was the proposed ecological solution from a Norwegian study. According to the authors the best possible packaging solution, after a full life cycle analysis from production to disposal, is plastic bags. The plastic bags get used once and then burned. According to the research this uses much less electricity, requires less diesel in shipping and creates less overall GHG emissions.

This class leaves us all with a lot of unanswered questions and a lot of follow up research to do. What do we make of this if it is true? How much of a role does consumer awareness play in the food industry? Are we all so fed up with scientific analysis that we have stopped paying attention? Should we start buying things in plastic bags instead of in glass bottles?

Some helpful resources:

Science Direct, IFEU, Enviro Pac

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Excursion to the Kassel Organic Farm


Inside the New Barn

Today the Organic Agriculture section of the SIA program went with Professor von Fragstein to the University of Kassel’s Organic Farm in Domäne Frankenhausen . The farm is roughly 45 km from Witzenhausen so we started our class during the long ride there, talking about soil pH and nitrogen as we looked out the many farmers fields now planted in winter cover crops.

The school’s farm has over 300 ha of organic production and produces a huge amount of milk, potatoes, geese among other things for market. The farm has both an educational and an economic purpose and meets both. It was cold and raining on the farm, enough so that we had a tough time paying attention all the way through, but we got a general sense for the place.  We saw almost a hundred cows, over 300 geese, huge barns full of giant farm equipment meant to cover many meters at a time, and many busy farm workers. We learned a lot about the distinction between the organic standard and the ‘spirit of organic’ in practice on this large scale organic production. This organic spirit shows through in many of the activities here, for instance the new barns are made with FSC certified wood.

Being on the University’s farm gave us all a reminder about the practical meaning behind all the classroom work we are concentrating on now. All this ‘nose in a book’ time spent memorizing different aspects of the kingdoms of life, the properties of soil and the mathematical questions about sustainability has a purpose. It was also another good reminder that for all the food we eat there is a lot of work going on somewhere – that some of our fellow students are doing some of that work and that the option for getting our hands dirty and having a place to practice is near.

Read the FQH about the Uni-Kassel Organic Farm.


Organic Eprints from Uni Kassel Farm mostly in German but some offered in English.

History of the Department of Organic Farming and Cropping Systems

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SIA Schedule in Witzenhausen

80px-Wappen_WitzenhausenWitzenhausen is a small town with a satellite campus for the study of Agriculture and has been a center of agricultural studies for a very long time now. The focus on organic agriculture started in the 80’s and has had a major impact on the whole community of Witzenhausen. The classes here have traditionally been coordinated and accredited through the Universität Kassel. Recent changes to the location of the administration of the SIA program have created some confusion. Although the Organic Agriculture Sciences Faculty here in Witzenhausen is a satellite of Universität Kassel SIA Masters candidates are officially students of the George-August Universität in Göttingen. Their Sustainable International Agriculture Masters Program page is the place to look for information.

The Schedule:

Courses officially start on October 12th and go until December 21 then a break till January 8th and back to classes for an indeterminate amount of time. The Universities have not yet worked out what the timing should be so it all depends on the class choice. Read about the Official Holidays in Germany and more about what those mean from Living in Germany.

I encourage all interested people to cruise around the website and see what people are up to. Most of that is in German so plug in your babel-fish and work it out – you’ll also find a lot of information in English there and through the Witzenhausen Group on the Couchsurfing organization website.

imagesThere is a Conference titled: “Regulation of soil organic matter and nutrient turnover in agriculture”  happening on November 12thto 13th, 2009 in Witzenhausen. Download the program:

There is a joint training hosted by DITSL (Deutsches Institut für Tropische und Subtropische Landwirtschaft GmbH) and FiBL (Das Forschungsinstitut für biologischen Landbau) “Quality management and certification – international training programme” from March 16th April 3rd in Witzenhausen in 2010.

Finally there is a little traffic on Qype about Witzenhausen: