Food systems play an important role locally, nationally and globally, by impacting soil and water quality, human health and nutrition, global economics, packaging and transportation interests, and overall food and energy security. The foundation of this nascent field of study is strongly represented in the existing and emerging strengths at UVM, building on our service as a land-grant university with a deep connection to Vermont's working landscape. As one of UVM's transdisciplinary research efforts, the Food Systems Initiative supports over 140 research projects that address local and regional food systems issues, with a focus on developing viable, regionally-based additions and alternatives to the global food system. These alternatives target a revitalization of regional agriculture while improving public nutrition, protecting the environment and advancing the local economy. This work dovetails with the rising public interest in sustainable, secure, and healthy food systems and the growing national recognition of UVM and Vermont as leaders in sustainable food systems practice.
Four years ago, Professor Tim Perkins, Ph.D., and colleague Abby van den Berg, Ph.D., cut the top off a maple tree. As researchers at UVM's Proctor Maple Research Center, they wanted to learn more about sap flow. Instead, they discovered an entirely new way to make maple syrup. "It's revolutionary in some ways," says Perkins.
John Barlow, D.V.M., Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Animal Science
Stacked 15 high, 1,500 culture plates line the bench of John Barlow's lab at UVM. This is the collection of just one day at one Vermont farmstead cheesemaker's farm. Barlow's large-scale, entire-farm sampling hopes to come up with some novel pathogen-detection technology that may be particularly useful to small-scale, on-farm cheesemakers.
Heather Darby, Ph.D., Extension Associate Professor
In the nineteenth century, Vermont farmers grew some 40,000 acres of wheat each year. But as the soils, railroads, and climate of the Midwest triumphed in the intense competition of grain commodity markets, Vermont wheat production steadily declined and all but disappeared.
V. Ernesto Mendez, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Plant and Soil Science
Professor Ernesto Méndez, Ph.D., knows that being an agronomist alone isn't enough to understand and affect the complex issues of agricultural sustainability and farmer wellbeing. That's why he's devoted his research and teaching career to transdisciplinary and action approaches that integrate systemic thinking with on-the-ground impacts.
Rachel Johnson, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., Robert L. Bickford Jr. Professor of Nutrition
Rachel Johnson, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., has made a career of researching the science behind childhood obesity — with 101 peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals, 12 book chapters, and funded grants and contracts totaling nearly $3.5 million.