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Faculty Profiles: Ron Vos, Ecological Agriculture

Posted by Dieter Bouma | Nov 02, 2015

As a professor of agriculture and environmental studies at Dordt College in Iowa, Ron Vos often finds himself working with people who don’t naturally get along with one another, namely, farmers and environmentalists. It has been Ron’s lifelong work to bring such people, and the expertise they represent together in caring for God’s earth. Although his work and study in agriculture have taken all over the world to countries like Hungary, Ukraine, Russia, Honduras, Zambia, and Kenya, Ron has also made a lasting difference in how farming is done in the United States. An early director of Dordt College’s unique Agriculture Stewardship Center, a 200 acre “farm” near the college which takes on the practical problems of raising livestock, cultivating row crops, and growing small grains and produce, all done in appropriate ways to exemplify biblical principles of creation care and sustainability.

Ron is no stranger to applying biblical principles in his teaching. He is a recipient of Dordt’s prestigious John Calvin Award for his excellence in integrating and articulating a Christian world view toward daily life and contemporary issues. He also received the Master Researcher Award from the organization Practical Farmers of Iowa for his work in developing an extensive and comprehensive agricultural research program at Dordt’s Agriculture Stewardship Center. Ron’s graduate education includes an MA in Environmental Science from Governors State University (Illinois) as well as a PhD in Agronomy from South Dakota State University. His research has been published in numerous scientific journals, and he is also an author and contributor to articles and books on holistic agriculture and Christian perspectives in agriculture, including Biblical Holism and Agriculture (2002), Theocentric Sustainable Agriculture (2004), Just Agriculture (2005) (with Del Vander Zee), and A Christian Perspective on Sustainable Agriculture published in the book Signpost of God’s Liberating Kingdom (1998). 

At Au Sable, Ron teaches the course Ecological Agriculture: Farming and Gardening for Sustainability (Pacific Rim, Summer Session II), a course that shows students how to make agricultural systems as productive and sustainable as the natural systems they replace. Ron’s unique combination of academic knowledge, practical experience, spiritual wisdom and passionate care for God’s creation moves his students.

Emi Tucker, who took the course in 2013, noted, “If ever there was a professor that was genuinely passionate about his field, it would be Dr. Vos… as he is both a professor and a farmer. His first-hand experience with operating a farm sustainably… really enabled him to share agricultural principles with us on a personal level. Dr. Vos is not afraid to apply spirituality to agriculture, and managed to interweave the two considerably well during our class this summer.”

Despite many demands on his time, Ron returns annually to Whidbey Island for the Au Sable course because, in his words  ”I enjoy sharing with students my enthusiasm and broad experience for agriculture that is environmentally sound, economically profitable, and socially just.  One of my goals is to encourage Christian students to wrestle with world view issues and it’s pure joy to hear from former students how this course has transformed their lives.”

Ecological Agriculture offers one of Au Sable’s most practical educational experiences for students who want to make a difference in some of the most basic aspects of life, including the food we eat and how we grow it. The Institute looks forward to another great session this summer with Ron and his students.