Innovative UM Farm Class Imagines Future Food

UM students Isabella Chambers and Sabine Englert feed mealworms to UM Dining's Welsh harlequin ducks. (Photo by Ryan Brennecke)

MISSOULA – This fall, University of Montana students are studying this question: What will lunch taste like in 2100?

On Friday, Nov. 18, students will team with UM Dining to participate in a group cooking class to actually experience the projected meal of diners 78 years from now. They will start cooking at noon in the Missoula Food Bank and Community Center’s Learning Kitchen.

The cooking class is part of a semester-long course, Soil-to-Soil: Food and Climate. The course is being taught by Peter McDonough, the UM Climate Change Studies director, and Caroline Stephens, a PEAS Farm lecturer with UM Environmental Studies Program.

Ingredients may be unexpected, like bison, prickly pear, lentils or mushrooms. Each animal and vegetable has been selected by students for resilience to future climate models for western Montana, as well as nutritional quality and accessibility.

“Climate change and an unsustainable food system are creating an unprecedented challenge – and golden opportunity – to reimagine what we eat and how we get it,” McDonough said. “Soil-to-Soil is the first course of its kind at UM. It gets into the weeds, so to speak, on issues of climate – from food production to distribution to consumption to waste.”

Stephens said the course is experiential and field-trip based, following food from the soil where food is grown and then, ideally, to the soil it becomes once composted. Since August, students have visited farms, ranches, seed libraries, food hubs, restaurants and grocery stores, trying to understand Missoula’s food system and its vulnerability, resilience and adaptability in regard to the climate crisis.

Soil-to-Soil is a collaboration between two areas of expertise on UM’s campus: climate solutions with the Climate Changes Studies minor program, and food systems and sustainable agriculture in the Environmental Studies Program.

Laura Granlund, a registered dietician, and Brian Heddlesten with UM Dining will partner on the Nov. 18 class. Environmental Studies graduate student Elyse Caiazzo is the teaching assistant for this course.


Contact: Caroline Stephens, PEAS farm lecturer, UM Environmental Studies program, 502-797-8266,