The Gillings Sustainable Agriculture Project: A Gillings Innovative Laboratory

Triangle University Food Studies

A surging national interest in what we eat has been mirrored in the academic world with an increasing number of students looking to formally study food and agriculture.

Some schools have started offering degree programs that center on a core food and agriculture curriculum while integrating various academic fields. NYU offers a Food Studies masters program, with the well-known Marion Nestle as faculty. Tufts offers a Agriculture, Food and Environment masters degree, which until recently was headed by Kathleen Merrigan, who now serves as Deputy Secretary of Agriculture under the USDA. The University of New Hampshire recently partnered with The University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy to offer a dual major in EcoGastronomy.

With a brilliant line up of schools in the triangle and a vibrant local food and sustainable agriculture scene to boot, I’m disappointed that no school here has yet to offer a program that integrates various academic departments for a more holistic understanding of food and agricultural issues. That said, NC State offers degrees in traditional and technical aspects of agriculture as well as a new and quite popular Agroecology undergraduate minor. Central Carolina Community College offers a hands on farming program with their Sustainable Agriculture associates degree. I also just learned about a food cluster program available to UNC undergraduate students.

Recognizing the growing interest in learning about food and agriculture from an integrative perspective, Dr. Charlie Thompson, Director of Center for Documentary Studies at Duke and Gillings Project collaborator, organized a meeting around food and farming for students and faculty who were passionate on the topics. The meeting aimed to bring faculty and students from different schools and departments together to explore ways of collaborating.

Over twenty people attended the first meeting, with a range of academic fields represented. Most of the attending faculty were already teaching incredible classes on food and agriculture within their departments. I couldn’t help but think that with these amazing faculty as resources, a program about food would bring collaboration amongst now separate departments.

Just what the group assembled will lead to, we’re not sure, but after hearing about everyone’s interests, thoughts and concerns, we decided the group would share some readings and discussion to get to know one another better. We named ourselves Triangle University Food Studies (TUFS) and plan to meet again in the early fall to discuss a book written by Norman Wirzba, a Research Professor of Theology, Ecology, and Rural Life at Duke Divinity School, entitled “The Essential Agrarian Reader: The Future of Culture, Community, and the Land.”

If you’re interested in joining our group or to keep updated on all things food related in the triangle academic world through our Ning site, shoot me an email at

Thanks for your interest,



2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Hi, Anna,

The TUFS group sounds interesting. Please keep me posted. I’m a big fan of Charlie Thompson, remembering him from the days when he had a blueberry farm in Chatham County.

By the way, I hope you’ll check out the new Sustainable Grub page on Facebook.


Comment by Dee

Thanks Dee! I’ll keep you posted on TUFS and will be sure to check out the Sustainable Grub Facebook page.

Comment by Gillings Sustainable Ag Project

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