OAGR*2070 Introduction to Organic Agriculture

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The following description is for the course offering in Winter 2023 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.

Students will be exposed to the scale of the organic industry today, including the factors driving interest in organics for both producers and consumers. The foundational principles underlying contemporary organic agriculture will be presented and firsthand experience of current organic practices will be provided. In addition, this course will rely on small group mentoring to stimulate independent, learner-centered analysis of selected topics in organic agriculture.

This course offers a systems approach to the study of organic agriculture with a main focus on production and a contextual understanding of processing, distribution, retailing and consumers. Production of field crops, horticulture, livestock and their interactions will be assessed according to the Canadian organic standards.  As a system to sustain food production, organic agriculture will be critically evaluated for its impacts on healthy soil, clean air and water, biodiversity, regenerative energy, mitigating and adapting to climate change, profitable and resilient farming communities, and an adequate, healthy food supply for all.

Pre-Requisites: 5.00 credits
Restrictions: OAGR*2050, OAGR*3030


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 WebAdvisor for class schedule and location.

Learning outcomes:

At the end of this course, students should be able to:
  1. Understand the importance of a systems approach to agricultural production and sustainability in organic agriculture.

  2. Understand the basis for common methods for organic production for specific crops, livestock and management.

  3. Understand the importance of organic methods for soil, air, and water quality, biodiversity, and the implications for energy cost and climate change.

  4. Experience agricultural education within the ideology of the organic community; caring, sharing, experiential learning and student centered in a blend of overall lecture structure, enhanced with guest experience in the field, and students sharing their in-depth knowledge and personal reflections in discussion forums. 

  5. Relate the organic principles to all facets of the agricultural and food value chain. 

  6. Understand the key current literature on organic agriculture. 

Lecture Content:

Topics to be covered in lectures include:
  • Canadian and International Organic Standards Evolution of Organic Agriculture in Canada

  • Systems Concepts and Crop Rotations

  • Organic Crop Fertility and Integrated Weed Management

  • Seed Breeding and On-Farm Research

  • Organic Livestock Production  and Pollinator Conservation

  • Organic Business and Markets

  • Organic Agriculture and Food Security

  • Organic Agriculture, Sustainability and Social Impact

  • Student Presentations on Selected Topics

Labs & Seminars:
Topics to be covered in seminars include: 
  • Organic Certification and Standards
  • Service Crops in Integrated Farming Systems
  • Small Scale Market Vegetables
  • Large Scale Vegetables and Distribution
  • Weed Control in Large Scale Cash Crop
  • Organic Livestock
  • Organic Greenhouse Production and Standards
  • Organic Farming and the Community
  • A Field Trip if Possible

Course Assignments and Tests:

Assignment or Test Contribution to Final Mark Learning Outcomes Assessed

Mid-term test 1 


1, 2, 3, 4

Mid-term test 2


1, 2, 3, 4

Seminar Assignments


1, 2, 3, 4

Reading Assignments


4, 6

Leading Discussion of Reading Assignment

5% 4, 6

Student Presentation


5, 6

Additional Notes:

Marking Scheme for Course Assignments, Test and Exam

Seminar Assignment - Written Submission (20%)

Date: weekly, DropBox - Seminar Assignments
Seminar sessions will be dedicated to a presentation by a guest speaker.
Seminars will include a Circle process to facilitate discussions that invite students to co-create and share their knowledge. The invitation to the Circle is to bring our many ways of knowing to the conversation- body, emotion, spiritual, as well as our mind. Students are encouraged to integrate what they are learning with stories of their personal experience as well as their intellectual knowledge.
An important principle of Circle is that each person is invited to speak their truth but not assume that it is the truth for others. Each offering of insights, ideas, experience, and curiosity is given as a gift to the whole. In the spirit of gift giving and responding to the gifts, we do not have to agree. You may respond to the offering while considering how you might respond. We respect the gifts of the different perspectives and contributions that each of us bring to the discussion. We learn to listen deeply and to learn from each other.
After each seminar, there will be an assignment, with questions about the topics discussed within each seminar period. The seminar assignments are due the following Sunday at 11:59 pm. The answers are to be typed on the Word file sheet and the file name must include your name. The assignments must be submitted in the Dropbox for Seminar Assignments by the due date.
The Seminar Assignment will be 20% of your final grade.
Reading Assignment Discussion Post (20%)
Date: Assigned Dates, Discussion platform
Students will be assigned readings and asked to submit a discussion posting in response to assigned questions. The 8 readings and questions will be available on CourseLink at the start of the semester. Students will review the readings according to the assigned schedule and submit a discussion posting. For each reading discussion label your discussion with the following: 1) due date, 2) your name, and 3) reading title.
The posting must be a minimum length of 200 to 400 words.
The posting will be evaluated out of a score of 5 according to the following i) Clarity - the meaning must be clear and not ambiguous, ii) Timing - the posting must be on time, iii) Direct - the posting must address the question(s) directly, iv) Critical Thinking - comparing and contrasting and v) Length - (200 to 400 words).
Please review this resource: https://guides.lib.uoguelph.ca/c.php?g=130971&p=855807%23s-lg-box-15757239 University of Guelph Guide for On line Discussions.
The overall weight for the reading assignment is 15% of the overall mark.
Leading Discussion of Reading Assignment (5%)
Students will be assigned in pairs to lead a short discussion from one of the weekly reading assignments. Dates will be assigned in January and grading rubric will be given out in advance.
Student presentation (20%)
Date: during lecture and seminar sessions
Each student will choose a topic from a list of selected topics in organic agriculture and deliver a 12 to 14 minute presentation to the class during the lecture or seminar period. Select the title of your chosen topic and send the instructor your choice by Wednesday, Jan 25, 2023. Upon approving the title, the instructor will assign a specific date for your presentation in the lecture week to which your topic most appropriately applies.
The presentation should include at least 5 references from refereed journal articles. In addition, references from electronic sources will be accepted if they are university or government, or other credible sources, Wikipedia references are not allowed. Data from these papers should be compared and contrasted in relation to the objective of the presentation.
The presentation should include the following sections: i) Title Slide with your name, date, title, ii) Introduction and Objective(s), iii) Literature review and current state of the product or process discussed, iv) Recommendations to improve the product or process, v) Conclusions and vi) References.
Please be sure there is a minimum font size of 28 on the text in all slides except for citations and URLs which other students can see later on CourseLink. There should be citations throughout the text, as required for information from other sources, in a presentation or paper. Below each photo, give credit to the photographer, if not you, or cite the source of the photo. After your presentation, submit a pdf of your slides and notes into the DropBox. Your presentation will be shared with your classmates.
The instructor will mark according to the following criteria i) slides are clear and understandable (4 marks), ii) speaking style is clear and understandable (4 marks), iii) presentation includes each required section (2 marks), iv) presentation is within the time limit of ~12 min (2 marks), v) content is presented with suitable references and evidence i.e. data (numbers) (12 marks), vi) questions are answered accurately and effectively (4 marks), and vii) asking a minimum of two questions to your peers on their presentations (questions should be asked from two distinct presentations) (2 marks)
Midterm Test 1 (20%)
Date: Fri, Feb 17, 8:30 am, In Class
The mid-term test will be Friday Feb 17, 2022 during the seminar period. It will consist of multiple choice questions, short answer questions and an essay question. It will cover material from the lectures, seminars, and readings.
Midterm Test 2 (20%)
Date: Wed, Mar 29, 8:30 am Web
The mid-term 2 test will be Wednesday March 29th, 2023 during the lecture period. It will consist of multiple choice questions, as well as short and long answer questions. It will cover material from the lectures, seminars, and readings.


Final examination:

Please refer to WebAdvisor for exam schedule and location.

Course Resources:

Required Texts:  

CourseLink  All course material is available free online. Required readings of refereed papers or book chapters will be posted on CourseLink prior to relevant assignments, seminar or class.

Recommended Texts:

Martin, R.C. and MacRae, R. [Eds] 2014. Managing energy, nutrients, and pests in organic field crops. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL

Practical and scientific resources for organic production: http://www.dal.ca/faculty/agriculture/oacc/en-home/resources.html 

Organic Science Cluster: http://www.dal.ca/faculty/agriculture/oacc/en-home/organic-science-cluster.html

Canadian Organic Standards: http://www.dal.ca/faculty/agriculture/oacc/en-home/about/canadian-organic-standards-and-regulations.html

Organic Field Crop Handbook (Textbook).  Wallace, J., Frick, B., Telford, L. and Thiessen Martens, J. 2019. Organic Field Crop Handbook. Canadian Organic Growers


Lab Manual:  

There is not a required lab manual for the course.

Other Resources:

Guelph Organic Conference 


OAGR 2070 students are encouraged to attend the virtual workshops of the Guelph Organic Conference Jan 23-29, 2023. Registration is free.  https://www.organiccouncil.ca/2022-guelph-organic-conference/ 

Interested students may inquire about volunteering at the conference. Students are also eligible to apply for an eco-scholar award (https://yorkshirevalley.com/2023-yorkshire-valley-eco-scholar-award/). Deadline is February 10th, 2023.

Field Trips:


Additional Costs:

No additional costs are planned for this course.

Course Policies:

Grading Policies:

See the section above on Course Assignments and Tests. Specific grading policies are included for each assignment. Unless otherwise stated, the grade of any assignment will be reduced by 10% per day for each business day beyond the due date. The student name must be included on each assignment and as part of any Word file name.

Course Policy on Group Work:


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

Unless you are otherwise informed for specific classes, all electronic devices are not to be used for any purpose. Exceptions may be granted, upon request, to students requiring an electronic device for accessibility purposes.

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.

The Importance of Actually Unplugging


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:

Academic Misconduct

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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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For more information, contact CSD at 519-824-4120 ext. 56208 or email sas@uoguelph.ca or visit the Student Accessibility Services website: http://www.uoguelph.ca/csd/.

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