Dr. Pete Ziegler serves as the Director of the Civic Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) pathway minor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) at Virginia Tech. He is also the Project Director of the USDA grant funded Food and Agricultural Education Information System (FAIES) initiative. Dr. Ziegler has scholarly and curricular interests in the interdisciplinary study and practice of sustainability, systems dynamics, and community resilience. With a PhD in Comparative Biomedical Sciences, his expertise as an ecological epidemiologist provides a natural framework to bridge the natural and social sciences to address complex issues such climate change, food security, and public health. With funding from a USDA Higher Education Challenge grant, the CAFS minor was launched as a University-community initiative with Heifer International and the Hale Community Garden in Blacksburg. The CAFS minor is the first interdisciplinary pathway minor at Virginia Tech that embodies a commitment to sustainable agriculture and food systems by integrating classroom and community-based learning curriculum. The CAFS minor program brings together social and biophysical perspectives, frameworks, and community partnerships for students to explore such issues and topics as food security, food sovereignty, ecological sustainability, health and nutrition policy, food politics, and community resilience from farm to plate.  

When asked about the Introduction to Civic Agriculture course (ALS 2204), Dr. Zeiger had this to say, “This course is pivotal for setting the stage for everything you will learn in the minor. This is the course that introduces students to the CAFS cornerstones that emphasize the role of community engagement in studying food systems.” Dr. Ziegler highlighted the importance of the sense of community created with students learning together through discussion, shared meals, and engaged activities. He emphasized that the real learning happens in the midst of building these relationships with each other and in the community. Dr. Ziegler’s advice for students interested in the CAFS program: “Bring your curiosity, be open to new learning experiences, and participate in the community of the class.”