Sustainability, Tropical Agriculture & Missions

biol/agric/geog 343 - Costa Rica - May Session

TAM class at Don Felos farm, with Don Felo, grandson, his wife Mireya, daughter Eliana, Cara (student from Bermuda) and Micah (student from West Africa).JPG

An introduction to sustainability and tropical agriculture with applications for working with resource-poor farmers. Topics include the scientific basis of low cost techniques, tropical crops and their requirements, and on-site work. Issues in Christian missions and development, urban gardening and small animal techniques are also covered in the context of agricultural employment and economy. This course includes several trips to different ecosystem regions of Costa Rica. (4 credits)

Field, Applied

Professor: Dr. Dave Unander, Tomas Dozier

Meets: Monday - Friday


knowledge gained

Learning the major staple, fruit, and vegetable crops grown in the tropics and their particular needs and limitations

Introduction to soil science for agriculture

Practices of agroforestry, composting, small animal farming, and biogas systems in tropical environments

Understanding of key missions and development issues, such as how to enter a community, approaches to extension, and exploring different in-country living arrangements

Understanding tropical ecosystems, climate, and biomes


Skills Developed

Taxonomy of tropical agriculture plants

Ability to identify major plant families with important crops and understand the chemical characteristics of those families

Soil assessment and improvement techniques

Horticulture techniques, such as planting, grafting, and pruning

Communication techniques for conveying tropical agriculture practices in local communities, practiced through sharing tropical agriculture practices in the town of Vara Blanca

Approaches to fast language learning


field Experiences

Previous classes have visited small dairy and strawberry farms in the mountains, small, diverse, farms in both wet and arid lowland areas; successful agricultural co-ops for coffee, sugarcane, cacao and organic bananas; agricultural researchers and field experiments at Univ. of Costa Rica, EARTH Univ., CATIE (Center for Research and Education in Tropical Agriculture - an international research program).  This is not primarily a farming techniques course, but we do some fieldwork half-days on farm. 

For our Au Sable integrative sessions, during the last four years, we have visited the actively steaming crater of Poas Volcano Natl. Park and the cloud forest around the crater at 9,000 ft.; Caihuita Natl. Park, a shore and estuary ecosystem on the Caribbean near Panama; the Organization for Tropical Studies research station at La Selva, a lowland rainforest area near the Nicaraguan border;  the watershed area of Arenal Volcano Natl. Park, an actively erupting, classical cone, with many hot springs.