Sustainable Agriculture

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Sustainable International Agriculture Opening Ceremony in Witzenhausen

Cherry blossoms are in full bloom here in the middle of Germany just in time for the big celebration. This Friday the official Sustainable International Agriculture Masters Program Opening Ceremony by the Ministers of Research of Hessen (for Witzenhausen) and Niedersachsen (for Göttingen) will take place here in Witzenhausen. All are all invited. Presentations will be given by the presidents of the two universities as well as a few SIA students. Strong media presence is expected.

All SIA students have prepared posters for presentation during the ceremony and the catered event to follow. Below is the poster that we are working on for Community Shared Agriculture in North America.


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Excursion to the Kassel Organic Farm

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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.

Read Professor von Fragstein’s work: HOLISTIC APPROACHES TO TEACHING OF ORGANIC FARMING THE MODEL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF KASSEL

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 http://www.unibio.de 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: www.dbges.de/wb/media/workshop_witzenhausen.pdf

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: http://www.qype.co.uk/de737-witzenhausen