Next offered in Summer 2020

Agriculture as a business, lifestyle and land use is influenced by many external forces including the marketplace, consumer preferences, the weather, federal agricultural policies and programs, and international competition.  In the United States, land use policies, typically established and administered at the local government level, also have a tremendous influence, both positively and negatively, on agriculture.  Particularly in urbanizing areas of the country, land use policies may shape the future of local farming as much or more than the economics of food and food production.

This course will provide students with an opportunity to explore the political, economic and societal forces that influence land use decisions, an understanding of the history of land use policies and planning in the U.S. as they relate to agriculture, a working knowledge of current land use policies and programs tied to agriculture and farming, and an opportunity through case studies to dissect and debate land use issues and conflicts surrounding agriculture.

Student Learning Objectives:

  • To understand the many forces, viewpoints and considerations that shape land use decisions and policies that affect agriculture in the United States.
  • To understand the myriad of land use policies and programs that support agriculture and farming in the U.S.
  • To understand the land use decision making processes in the U.S. and how to influence the outcomes.

Class Topics (by week):

  1. Perspectives on land and land use
  2. History of land use policies in the U.S.
  3. Agriculture-specific land use policies and programs
  4. An introduction to actual land use issues and cases involving agriculture.
  5. Public dialogue and debate – case studies in land use conflict. 

Instructor:  Robert Wagner has worked in the field of agricultural land use policy and farmland protection since 1981 with over 25 years with the national, nonprofit conservation organization the American Farmland Trust.  Mr. Wagner will present all the lectures and provide overall leadership for the discussion sessions.

Format: On-line during a 6-week summer session
Class Size:  Limited to 15.


A final grade will be calculated as follows:

  • Class discussion and participation          = 10%
  • Quizzes                                                                    = 10%
  • Journal assignment                                          = 20%
  • Blogs and formal testimony                        = 60%  (These are essentially essays.    There will be 5 total: three at 10% each and two at 15% each)

For information contact, Mr. Robert Wagner at;

Technology: According to UMass Online, in order to take this course you must:

  • have access to a personal computer (Mac or Windows)
  • be familiar with basic computer skills
  • be connected to the internet
  • have an e-mail program and account
  • have at least a 56 kbps modem
  • have a Java capable browser (Netscape or Internet Explorer)

NOTE: If you have any problems with technology, please contact the UMass Online Tech Support office for help.

This class is part of the Sustainable Food and Farming Online Certificate Program.   To register for upcoming classes, see UMass Online.  Most classes cost $482/credit.  If you would like to register for the Certificate program, you may apply here.

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