AGR*2500 Field Course in International Agriculture

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The following description is for the course offering in Winter 2018 and is subject to change. It is provided for information only. The course outline distributed to the class at the beginning of the semester describes the course content and delivery, and defines the methods and criteria to be used in establishing the final grades for the course.

This course introduces students to a wide range of tropical and subtropical agricultural production systems and issues. The course is comprised of a weekly 3 hour evening lecture and a two week field trip to Costa Rica where students will visit corporate and individual farms, university and government research stations. The field trip occurs during Reading Week in February.

This course must be recorded as part of your Winter course selection. The cost of the course is approximately $2500.00 per student, in addition to tuition and compulsory fees. Students must identify their interest in taking this course by contacting the OAC Dean's Office before the October course selection period of the previous year. In order to confirm reservations for travel arrangements a deposit of $300 in the form of a cheque, made payable to the University of Guelph, must be submitted to the OAC Dean's Office by November. Some financial support for travel may be available.


Teaching Assistant:

Credit Weight:


Course Level:

  • Undergraduate

Academic Department (or campus):

Department of Plant Agriculture



Semester Offering:

  • Winter

Class Schedule and Location:

Please refer to Web Advisor for class schedule and location.

Learning outcomes:

Upon completion of the course, each participant will:
  1. be able to synthesize current knowledge, published in peer reviewed literature on selected tropical agricultural systems and related development issues and  draw out the implications for agronomic, social, environmental and economic themes  (Literacy)
  2. have an understanding of the biological, environmental, socio-economic and cultural forces that shape agricultural production systems in the tropics and the implications of these forces on global development(Global Understanding)
  3. have a depth and breadth of understanding of the variables that shape tropical agricultural production (Global Understanding)
  4. be able to learn independently through observation and discussion in a different socio-cultural environment (Independence of Thought)

Lecture Content:

During ten days students will travel by bus on a route through the Central Valley, the Caribbean Lowlands, the Central Cordillera and the Pacific west coast of Costa Rica which covering Humid Tropic, Sub-Humid Tropic and Temperate agroecological zones. Visits to both small and large farm operations and the Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza (CATIE) and a biological research station will expose students to a very wide range of tropical (and some temperate) crops and livestock production systems, the natural environment of the tropics as well as environmental management issues.

Specific lectures will cover:
  • Course and field visit organization
  • The historical and biophysical context of agriculture and natural resource management in Costa Rica
  • Oil palm, cocoa and coffee cultivation
  • Banana, pineapple, sugar cane cultivation
  • Livestock, PES, vegetables and La Selva and the rainforest
  • Pre-departure briefing
Labs & Seminars:


Course Assignments and Tests:

Assignment or Test Contribution to Final Mark Learning Outcomes Assessed

Word document summarizing Daily Journal
- key questions and learnings during the field trip


1, 2, 3, 4

Active participation and engagement and appropriate
comportment during the lectures and field trip


2, 4

Final essay based upon four of six questions
set by the instructors


1, 2, 3, 4

Additional Notes:

Daily Journal

For each day of the trip, individual students will be designated and provided with additional reading materials to provide background on the content of that day. Following the pre-departure course lectures on the topic, the designated individuals will prepare 15 to 20 questions to explore during their day’s visits which will be shared with the group the evening before. All students will maintain a notebook synthesizing for each day the learning points from their own daily field observations including observations on land use and changes between the stops as well as information generated from their own and other individual’s questions. Each participant will submit by e-mail to the instructors by Friday March 09 a typed word document summarizing their observations based on their daily journal and including any relevant photos, maps and diagrams for each day of the trip except for the day upon which they are part of the designated group. The participants designated for a specific day will submit a combined report for that specific day including any relevant photos and diagrams to the instructors by Friday March 09, 2018

Active Participation, Engagement  During Class and Field Trip.

During the course sessions and field trip students will be evaluated based on their information exchange with farmer hosts, tour guide(s), instructors and fellow participants. Successful information exchange consists of effective and courteous listening, questions and discussion.

Final Essay

Upon return to Guelph, students will prepare a final essay responding to any four from a total of six questions set by the instructors. The essay should be approximately 2 pages per question (total 2000 words) in length, not including references and any necessary photos and diagrams. The formatting for the 8-page body of the essay MUST be as follows:
  1. Font: Times New Roman (Normal) at 12 point
  2. Spacing: Double-spaced (i.e. not 1.5 spacing)
  3. Side Margins: 1 inch on the left and right
  4. Top Margins: 1 inch on the top and bottom, and page numbers should be within the 1-inch margin at the top of the page.
The essay should be in paragraph format. A reference list must be provided. A maximum of 25% of your references can be from an internet-site source. 75% of references must be from published, refereed material. You must cite your references within the body of the paper whenever you provide ideas and information from other sources. Use a consistent referencing style.
A hard-copy version of the essay is due on or before Friday 24th March, 2017. The quality of your submission will be evaluated as follows:

Content (75%):

  1. Introduction (Does it adequately set up the questions to be examined?) /10
  2. Is the research on each question thorough and relevant to the question? Is each major point developed and supported strongly? Is there evidence for originality of thought? Does the essay build on and utilize concepts developed in lectures, readings and field work? /45
  3. Conclusions/Further Insight /10
  4. Referencing (Did you utilize a number of relevant sources and were the references properly and thoroughly cited in the text?) /10
Structure (25%)
  1. Punctuation, Grammar, Spelling, Conformed to Instructions /5
  2. Sentence Structure /5
  3. Paragraph Structure (Are paragraphs well developed and contain introductory and concluding statements? Did you write succinctly and make every sentence count?) /5
  4. Overall Structure (Does each paragraph follow from the previous paragraphs? Is there a connection between sections of the paper?) /10

Final examination:

There is no final examination scheduled for this course.

Course Resources:

Required Texts:

There is no formal text for the course. Reading lists comprising mostly web-accessible references will be provided to participants.

Recommended Texts:

Not applicable.

Lab Manual:

Not applicable.

Other Resources:

Reading lists comprising web-accessible and other references for each topic area of the course will  be provided to participants on CourseLink. 

Field Trips:

The field component will take place between 16th February and 25th February 2018. Students will fly from Toronto to San Jose, Costa Rica via Panama City and travel by bus on a route through the Central Valley, the Caribbean Lowlands, the Central Cordillera and the Pacific west coast which covers the Humid Tropics, Sub-Humid Tropics and Temperate agroecological zones. Visits to both small and large farm operations and the Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza (CATIE) will expose students to a very wide range of tropical (and some temperate) crops and livestock production systems, the natural environment of the tropics as well as environmental management issues. The cost of the field trip is $2,900 in addition to normal University of Guelph fees. Students offered a place must confirm their registration with a $300 non-refundable deposit (cheque only – payable to the University of Guelph) by 1st November 2017. The balance of the trip cost ($2,600) is payable by direct deposit on or before Monday 8th January, 2018.

Additional Costs:
Students are individually responsible for the costs of their travel document (passport), travel health insurance (required) and trip cancellation insurance (optional) and any personal expenses. The course cost covers all transportation, accommodation, meals in Costa Rica and exit visa.

Course Policies:

Grading Policies:

Any assignments submitted after the specified due date without prior instructor approval or medical/ compassionate reason shall be subject to a 5% penalty for that item’s grade.

Course Policy on Group Work:

There is no group work in this course.

Course Policy regarding use of electronic devices and recording of lectures:

Electronic recording of classes is expressly forbidden without consent of the instructor. When recordings are permitted they are solely for the use of the authorized student and may not be reproduced, or transmitted to others, without the express written consent of the instructor.

Other Course Information:

University Policies

Academic Consideration

When you find yourself unable to meet an in-course requirement because of illness or compassionate reasons, please advise the course instructor in writing, with your name, id#, and e-mail contact. See the academic calendar for information on regulations and procedures for Academic Consideration:

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University of Guelph students have the responsibility of abiding by the University's policy on academic misconduct regardless of their location of study; faculty, staff and students have the responsibility of supporting an environment that discourages misconduct. Students need to remain aware that instructors have access to and the right to use electronic and other means of detection. Please note: Whether or not a student intended to commit academic misconduct is not relevant for a finding of guilt. Hurried or careless submission of assignments does not excuse students from responsibility for verifying the academic integrity of their work before submitting it. Students who are in any doubt as to whether an action on their part could be construed as an academic offence should consult with a faculty member or faculty advisor.

The Academic Misconduct Policy is detailed in the University Calenders:


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