The last decade has seen a explosion of interest in everything sustainable as an effort is made to care responsibly for earth’s resources. One fascinating area of the sustainability movement touching higher education is that of sustainable agriculture and food production. We consulted the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Sustainable Agriculture Education Directory to find out which schools have gotten serious about sustainability in this area. To make our initial pool of candidates offering a bachelor’s degree, a college had to feature some aspect of sustainable agriculture or food production either in the name of the major itself or in the name of the specialization/concentration of the major. Our initial pool of 54 U.S. colleges was narrowed down to the 20 most affordable based on net price for full-time beginning students given by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Navigator.
20. University of Kentucky – Lexington, KY
Sustainable Agriculture Degree (B.S.)
We begin our ranking of sustainable agriculture degrees with a solid and affordable offering from the University of Kentucky. The College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment offers the B.S. in Sustainable Agriculture, one of the few degrees specifically and wholly devoted to the topic on this list. The Apprenticeship in Sustainable Agriculture requires 250 hours of hands-on field work during one summer and fall.
Net price: $14,842
19. Michigan State University – East Lansing, MI
Website Horticulture (B.S.) with Sustainable and Organic Horticulture option
The Department of Horticulture at Michigan State emphasizes the hands-on nature of the learning required for this undergraduate degree, encouraging interactive, collaborative field work throughout. Students steering into the Sustainable and Organic option will enjoy preparing for careers in farm production, community food systems, and urban agriculture.
Net price: $14,791
18. University of Florida – Gainesville, FL
Website Horticultural Science (B.S.) with Organic and Sustainable Crop Production
Website Plant Science (B.S.) with Sustainable Food Production specialization
The University of Florida has two inexpensive types of sustainable agriculture degrees. Horticultural science majors can concentrate on organic and sustainable crop production, which emphasizes the ecological and economic balance needed in any crop system, organic or otherwise. Future options for majors include careers in fields like fruit/vegetable marketing or greenhouse production. A second major is the B.S. in Plant Science with sustainable food production specialization, where a host of interesting courses are offered in pest management, plant improvement, management and sales, and more. Florida is thus offering two different types of degrees at a net price worthy of careful consideration.
Net price: $14,786
17. University of California-Santa Cruz – Santa Cruz, CA
Website Environmental Studies (B.A.) with Agroecology and Sustainable Agriculture focus
Environmental Studies majors at UC Santa Cruz can specialize in agroecology. This particular field examines agricultural production at the intersection of ecology, economics, policy, and society. UC Santa Cruz graduates are poised to become people of influence as educators, researchers, and analysts. And the affordability that UC Santa Cruz offers means graduates will have less debt as they get started in those roles.
Net price: $14,759
16. University of Idaho – Moscow, ID
The University of Idaho in Moscow offers three different relevant sustainable agriculture degrees: Soil and Land Resources, Sustainable Cropping Systems, and Sustainable Food Systems. Students looking to study sustainable agriculture in a beautiful rural setting in the great Northwest will want to take a close look at the University of Idaho’s affordable tuition.
Net price: $14,445
15. Montana State University – Bozeman, MT
Sustainable Food and Bioenergy Systems (B.S.) with Agroecology 0ption
Sustainable Food and Bioenergy Systems (B.S.) with Sustainable Crop Production option
Sustainable Food and Bioenergy Systems (B.S.) with Sustainable Food Systems option
Sustainable Food and Bioenergy Systems (B.S.) with Sustainable Livestock Production option
Montana State offers no less than four degree options under the Sustainable Food and Bioenergy Systems degree. If you are interested in the ecologically responsible production, distribution and consumption of food, any of these four will give you a hands-on and collaborative education at a super price. And the field experiences in the great outdoors of beautiful Montana would also be hard to beat.
Net price: $14,326
14. Iowa State University – Ames, IA
Website Agronomy (B.S.) with Agroecology option
At under $14,000 annual net price, the Agronomy bachelor’s at Iowa State is worth a good look. Students specializing in the Agroecology option have the opportunity to take interesting and stretching classes in World Food Issues, Watershed Hydrology, and Weed Identification.
Net price: $13,899
13. Evergreen State College – Olympia, WA
At Evergreen, each student crafts his or her own area of emphasis from a field of more than 60 subjects. The Practice of Organic Farming program allows students to study small-scale farming sustainability over the course of a spring, summer, and fall. During this time students get hands-on experience at the Evergreen Organic Farm. Evergreen is a unique program at a very affordable price among sustainable agriculture degree options.
Net price: $13,630
12. North Carolina State University – Raleigh, NC
Website Plant and Soil Sciences (B.S.) with concentration in Agroecology
The Agroecology concentration at NC State communicates the latest research and innovations in the field of sustainability through field trips, hands-on work, and classroom learning. Besides classes directly related to agricultural production, students also study the social and economic facets of the discipline with titles like Humans and the Environment and US Agricultural Policy. NC State’s program is a top consideration for affordable quality, especially considering the size of our initial pool of sustainable agriculture degrees.
Net price: $13,579
11. University of Georgia – Athens, GA
Website Horticulture (B.S.A.) with Sustainable Food Production emphasis
Within the Horticulture major, students at the University of Georgia may choose an emphasis in Sustainable Food Production. Here students will learn about growing fruits and vegetables in an organic or sustainable way. Courses are not limited to fruits and vegetables, however, as students may branch out and study sustainability with regards to animals, field crops, and aquaculture. Those who want to manage a farm, community garden, or own their own outfit would be well trained in this inexpensive program.
Net price: $13,287
10. The University of Montana – Missoula, MT
Website Sustainable Food and Farming Focus within Environmental Studies (B.A.)
The Sustainable Food and Farming focus will teach students how to create and maintain sustainable food systems at a remarkable annual net price of just over $13,000. One special feature is a supervised internship in a program called Ecological Agriculture and Society. Missoula-based U of M offers so much in terms of the great outdoors to students already enthusiastic about connecting with nature.
Net price: $13,112
9. Purdue University – West Lafayette, IN
Website Horticulture Science (B.S.) with Concentration in Sustainable Food and Farming Systems
Website Horticulture (B.S.) with Organic Systems Option
Are you itching to design and maintain a small-scale farming enterprise? The concentration in Sustainable Food and Farming will teach you how to do that without chemical input in pest control and soil development. Or maybe you want to learn to grow plants in a way that is environmentally responsible in the Organic Systems option. A definite learning advantage at Purdue is the University’s Student Farm, and the bottom line is easy to swallow.
Net price: $13,081
8. University of Wisconsin-River Falls – River Falls, WI
Website Crop and Soil Science Sustainable Agriculture Option
Under the rubric of the Crop and Soil Science degree, students at University of Wisconsin River Falls can focus on sustainable production, marketing, and land stewardship. Interesting courses include World Food and Population, Sociology of Rural Life, and Forage Management. Future sustainable farmers can get the ball rolling at U of W at a very reasonable price among sustainable agriculture degrees.
Net price: $12,505
7. University of Wyoming – Laramie, WY
Website Agroecology (B.S.)
University of Wyoming’s Department of Plant Sciences and Department of Ecosystem Science and Management call its interdisciplinary Agroecology degree the first of its kind in the country. By considering agricultural production from an ecosystems standpoint, students fully take into account the diversity of players, including soil, plants, microbes, insects, and animals. Potential students will want to note not only the net price under $12,000, but also that the Agroecology program boasts a well-heeled scholarship fund.
Net price: $11,856
6. Appalachian State University – Boone, NC
Website Sustainable Development (B.S.) with concentration in Agroecology and Sustainability
Students in the Agroecology and Sustainability concentration at Appalachian State can get their hands dirty at the school’s research and practice farm in nearby Fleetwood. Along with learning low-input methods of farming, students are also encouraged to reflect upon the economic, ecological, and philosophical underpinnings of contemporary food systems. Appalachian State is a solid offering at a very affordable net price.
Net price: $11,508
5. University of North Carolina-Pembroke – Pembroke, NC
Website B.S. in Environmental Science Sustainable Agriculture Track
The Department of Biology at UNC Pembroke administers this ultra-affordable sustainable agriculture degree. In addition to the expected gen. ed. classes and science courses in chemistry, biology, and math, students take several courses specific to issues in environmental science and sustainable agriculture, giving a balance of theoretical scientific foundation with industry-specific inquiry.
Net price: $10,686
4. University of Hawaii-Hilo – Hilo, HI
Website Agriculture (B.S.) with Tropical Plant Sciences and Agroecology specialization
Two of our top five finalists are from Hawaii. The U of H at Hilo offers the unique angle of tropical plant sciences for those wishing to labor in tropical zones. At just $10,000 annual net price, students can prepare themselves for a great diversity of careers in the tropical context, whether government or private sector.
Net price: $10,229
3. West Virginia University – Morgantown, WV
Website Agroecology (B.S.)
In the Division of Plant and Soil Sciences, students at WVU may take a B.S. in Agroecology. Students will learn to create and manage food and animal operations that are economically and environmentally responsible in the beautiful mountains of West Virginia. Expert faculty guidance makes this program a steal at just over $9,000 per year.
Net price: $9,380
2. University Hawaii-West Oahu – Kapolei, HI
Website Bachelor of Applied Science with Sustainable Community Food Systems concentration
The U of H at West Oahu has taken an interesting approach to sustainability by emphasizing community food systems. Learning is intentionally hands-on and practical, encouraging students to advance in their understanding of what is environmentally responsible by solving problems. Healthy salaries are projected in careers such as ranch management, soil scientist, and environmental engineer, for an inexpensive initial investment of less than $8,000 net price per academic year.
Net price: $7,820
1. California State University-Stanislaus – Turlock, CA
Website Agricultural Studies (B.A.) with Sustainable Agriculture concentration
Coming in at #1 among our most affordable sustainable agriculture degrees is the remarkably inexpensive bachelor’s in agricultural studies from CSU-Stanislaus. The sustainable agriculture concentration will appeal not only to future farmers, but also those interested in land use, natural resources, and community development. The capstone course in Permaculture evidences the program’s integrative approach to long-term sustainability.
Net price: $6,340
This concludes our ranking of the Top 20 Sustainable Agriculture Degree Programs by Net Price.
By CVO Staff