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What We Do

International…Sustainable…Agriculture. What does this mean? And, why is this important?

What role does UTIA have in addressing the food needs of the world’s growing population? How can we use cutting-edge scientific research and technology, our expertise in community outreach and our student engagement to solve arguably the most critical challenge facing our planet this century? And how can we address this challenge “sustainably”?

Why is it important for UTIA to have an international perspective?

We live in a globalizing world. We believe that our world is getting ever smaller. Everyday our lives, whether we like it or not, are impacted by global events and issues. We have so much to learn from and share with others around the world, and this includes agriculture and its sustainability. Tennessee and the United States do not have all the answers to the challenges that face our global agricultural, food and natural resource systems; we need to collaborate internationally to help others improve, but also to learn lessons from our global partners to maintain the excellence of Tennessee agriculture.

What we do: We position UTIA as an international leader in agriculture, by:

  • Developing opportunities for our faculty, staff and students traveling abroad to engage in education, research and outreach endeavors.
  • Developing programs to host partners, collaborators, students, scientists from across the globe here in Tennessee.
  • Communicating the importance of global awareness and the positive role that Tennessee and our university has to play in shaping our planet’s future.

Why the focus on the issue of sustainability for international programs?

We believe that securing the long-term future of our global food, agricultural and environmental systems is the most critical challenge of the 21st century. Sustainability is not just about keeping the status quo or even returning to self-imposed limits theorized about our planet. Sustainability involves renewal. A commitment to a better future for the next generations. This will take a dedication to the improvement of the physical, social and natural health of our planet and societies.

What we do: We seek sustainability by building programs that have beneficial impact that lasts beyond our involvement. We focus on programs that are:

  • Multi- or interdisciplinary and operate across traditional departments, bringing together leading experts to tackle issues from multiple vantage points.
  • Address the challenge of how the 9-plus billion people of the world will feed themselves by (and beyond) 2050 while simultaneously conserving the planet we depend upon for survival.
  • Generate solutions to the challenge of ending hunger and poverty in our lifetimes.

How important is agriculture worldwide?

Agriculture is integral to the constant challenges of global health, climate change and economic growth. It is a vital source of food, fiber, fuel, medicine and other raw materials. It is the most significant human footprint around the world and a good indicator of how we treat and manage the natural resources of this planet. From plant to animal, farm to fork, producer to consumer, everyone on the planet is involved in agriculture daily. Many countries around the world still have the majority of their population directly engaged in the agriculture sector, and many national economies are driven by agricultural production and trade.

What we do: We focus on agriculture by developing programs that are:

  • Sustainable in both the technical approaches they address and the beneficial impacts that result.
  • Focus on low and middle-income regions and countries of the world where agriculture is still the most important sector of the economy.

View the Smith Center of International Sustainable Agriculture's Strategic Plan