FALL 2012: Fourth annual edition of the UConn Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems in Italy accepting applicants

Program dates: August 29 to December 16, 2012 
Application deadline: (according to home university)
Total credits: 14
Program director: Peter Fischer (PhD), professor of history

The Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Program at the International Studies Institute at Palazzo Rucellai in Florence invites students to spend three months studying sustainable agriculture and food systems in Italy in its three key dimensions: the environment, economy and society.

The Sustainable Agriculture and Food Studies Program at the International Studies Institute at Palazzo Rucellai invites you to spend three months studying sustainable agriculture and food systems in Italy.  Cities and provinces such as Florence and Siena have become models of sustainable urban and rural development and landscape preservation. 

The historically close relationship between city and country, together with the deep-rooted Tuscan sense of proportion and harmony, space and time, respect for nature along with cutting edge technology, all shape and enrich conte
mporary sustainability research and debate, and hold invaluable lessons for all of us.

This program is designed for undergraduate students of agricultural sciences, environmental studies, economics and business administration, nutrition science, and students generally interested in food and sustainability studies. 


The Sustainable Agriculture and Food Studies Program is distinctive both for its interdisciplinary andcomparativeapproach to sustainable agriculture and food as well as its combination of in-class teaching, field work and study tours. You will have the opportunity to experience a particularly rich food culture with innovative approaches to issues of environmental and economic sustainability and quality oriented food production and nutrition. Strong focus will be placed on the issues of alternative farming practicesand the defense of bio-diversity. You will also learn about the characteristics of food production which are either uniquely characteristic of, or particularly prevalent in, Italy.

Students will follow an interdisciplinary set of class lectures on the history of food, agriculture and sustainability in Italy, on the economics of sustainable rural development in Tuscany and on the environmental dimension of sustainable agriculture. Courses, taught by UConn and international on-site faculty,  will make full use of the culture of the city and the region. Although no prior study of the language is required, you will enroll in the appropriate level of the "Florence Experience" course (I,II,III,IV), in which you will learn Italian in the classroom and through direct contact with many aspects of Italian culture. In special “Cultural Literacy Workshops” you will also develop the skills for success in Italian environments and the competence to interact as global citizens.

 Course Overview

·    The History of Food, Agriculture and Sustainability – A Global History Perspective (P. Fischer, PhD, ISI, Palazzo Rucellai, Florence - 3 cr)

·    The Economics of Sustainable Rural Development in Tuscany (G. Scozzafava, PhD, University of Florence - 3cr)

·    Sustainable Environmental, Food and Agricultural Systems in the US and Italy (T. Morris, PhD, G.A. Robbins, PhD and Paula Stahl, PhD, UConn – College of Agriculture and Natural Resources - 3 cr)

·    The Florence Experience: Intensive Italian Language Course (D. Marini, M.A., ISI, Palazzo Rucellai, Florence - 4 cr)

 ·    Cultural Literacy Workshop (Christian Tarchi, PhD, ISI, Palazzo Rucellai, Florence - 1 cr)

Study Tours and Field Work

As part of the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Studies Program you will participate in a series of study toursandfield experiences in Tuscany and in Central Italytaking you out of the classroom and into direct contact with the people and places where food is made, processed or sold. You will have the opportunity to learn directly from Italian farmers and producers, processors, sales and marketing professionals and chefs. This innovative educational format is a key aspect in the learning experience, during which theory and practice are synthesized into knowledge. Field experiences and study tours range from one to five days, and fall into two categories: 


Field Experiences focus on key Italian food items such as wine, olive oil, and cheese, and give students the singular opportunity to get first-hand experiences from the farm to the fork. Through participation in the olive harvest and in the making of wine, they will become familiar with the opportunities and challenges of sustainable food production. Additionally, students will visit an educational farm in the neighboring region of Emilia-Romagna to explore and experience the many facets of sustainable rural development.

 Study Tours and Special Activities focus on concrete sustainability initiatives in Florence and in Tuscany. 
The study tours and special activities will take full advantage of the rich Tuscan food culture and examine firsthand the profound role food plays in community, family, ethnicity, nutrition, health, and national identity. This will include visits to Tuscan farms practicing sustainable  agriculture and  other on-site visits in Florence to provide a first-hand insight into the unique Tuscan approach towards sustainable food and agriculture. Program tutors are responsible for accompanying students and coordinating both learning and logistics.


The Institute and Florence

You will find the Institute a warm and welcoming place, with an expert and accessible staff that always has time to answer a question or to help with a problem. There are two computer labs, a library, and a student lounge. You will be housed in double or triple rooms in furnished apartments shared with other program participants.

The apartments have equipped kitchens and  a washing machine. The apartments are located in the center of town within walking distance of Palazzo Rucellai. Along your way, you might stop at your favorite coffee bar for a cappuccino and a pastry, gaze into the shop windows at the artistically displayed goods, or marvel at major artistic, historical landmarks. 

The little pleasures of Italian life, the espresso break, the gelato, buying fresh vegetables in mom and pop shops, and the Italian approach to time, become a natural part of the day. Weekly cultural activities in Florence include a gelato walk, organized soccer games, the Ferragamo shoe museum, the artisans' workshops, and the secret rooms Palazzo Vecchio. Optional day trips and to Siena, Pisa, Lucca and San Gimignano, offer new perspectives on other parts of Italy. A day trip to Chianti is the closing event of Orientation.