My program integrates teaching and applied research in organic horticultural production systems. I am committed to undergraduate and graduate education and my teaching mission is to create life-long learners, with the aim of improving knowledge, skills and competence in horticultural science and food systems. I utilize skills-based and active learning strategies in the classroom to empower students to take control of their learning. Much of my teaching is focused on developing strong critical thinking and oral and written communication skills. It is important for me to create a safe learning environment for all students and I have a strong interest in promoting inter-cultural competency, fostering the ability of my students to work across difference, and the ability to explore problems through different lenses.


karamu garden michael chainey freshman horticulture university of minnesotaHORT 1905: Growing Food and Building Community: Urban Farming in the Twin Cities

Freshman Seminar, Fall semester

Course Overview:
Our metropolis has a vibrant local food movement. The cultivation of nourishing food in our urban centers helps bridge the gap in the food system, empowers youth, connects us to our neighbors and makes our city safer. Neighborhood community gardens, urban farm businesses and educational gardens and parks are all part of the urban food movement. Students will explore different urban farms and gardens within the Twin Cities metro through weekly field trips and learn about the complex environmental, political and social issues inherent in producing food in urban areas. Some topics that will be discussed include basic horticulture and production practices, soil health and environmental quality issues, and public policy and regulations of urban farms. Students in this seminar will be able to recognize social differences of race, ethnicity and class; improve intercultural competence skills as a foundation for positive cross-cultural relationships; and, through place-based learning, gain an awareness of how urban agriculture can be a force for change.

hort 5032 class 2016HORT 3480: Topics in Sustainable Horticulture: Food Justice in the Twin Cities

Spring Semester

Alternatively instructed by Dr. Julie Grossman

Course Overview: This is a seminar class for recipients of the Markhart Scholars award, whereby scholarship recipients are matched with a community organization to complete a 20-hour service learning project. The class meets periodically during the semester for discussion of readings related to food justice. 

Learn more about Markhart Scholars here.

HORT 5032: Organic Vegetable Production Systems

Every other spring semester
Course prerequisites: BIOL 1009/HORT 1001 and SOIL 2125

Course Overview:
This class is focused on the science of organic agriculture and is designed for graduate students. In this class, we will emphasize the relationships between the various disciplines within the framework of sustainable agriculture, which encompasses agricultural productivity, economic viability, environmental conservation and social equity, and how this relates to the regulatory framework supporting organic certification.

We will explore a holistic view of the agricultural food system, or systems that adhere to the “deep organic” philosophy of food production. Organic farms are very diverse, and we will compare and contrast aspects of sustainability within these systems and recognize current challenges in improving sustainability.

The systems involved in developing, producing, and marketing vegetable crops are neither static nor independent—rather, quite dynamic in their relationships. This should be considered as we progress through the various study areas so that you can integrate and explore the connections between them. For example: site selection, land preparation, environmental interaction, specialized equipment, plant reproductive biology and plant genetics, seed selection and seed saving, cultural management practices during crop growth and development, water management, control of insects, diseases and weeds, post-harvest handling and food safety, marketing and commodity use, nutritional and medicinal uses, will all be explored. The format of this class is 80% student-led discussion, 20% lecture. Class work consists of reading 3 scientific publications per week and grant writing.

ESPM 3108/5108: Ecology of Managed Landscapes

Co-instructed with Dr. Marcella Windmuller-Campione, Fall, even years.

This course examines the ecology of ecosystems that are primarily composed of managed plant communities, such as managed forests, field-crop agroecosystems, rangelands, and some nature reserves and parks. This course explores how the structure and function of managed ecosystems (for example, the spatial pattern of different plant species across a landscape) affect their properties, with focus on key ecosystem properties such as productivity, resource-use efficiency, nutrient cycling, and resilience. Emerging principles for design of sustainable managed ecosystems that meet multiple human needs will be examined. In addition, the societal implications of these management decisions and processes are explored. Importantly, this course focuses on several environmental issues of current major significance, including invasive species, air and water pollution, and global climate change.