University of Vermont

Fixing a Broken Food Systems: University of Vermont to Host Food Systems Summit

Emerging Leaders and Change Makers Invited to Gather in Burlington, VT, June 24–29, 2012

Burlington, VT – Our broken food system is creating economic, environmental, health, and societal problems, many experts say. The result:  the agricultural landscape in the U.S. is under threat, seriously challenging the sustainable production of food.

To address these pressing issues, the University of Vermont will host its first-ever Food Systems Summit during the summer of 2012.  

Titled “Leading the Necessary (r)Evolution for Sustainable Food Systems,” the Summit seeks to answer the pivotal question: “How can we create regional food systems that are viable alternatives to the conventional one that exists now?” 

The Summit consists of the following programs:

  • Breakthrough Leaders Program for Sustainable Food Systems – A two-week program for emerging food leaders to learn about systemic issues and how to effect change on an individual and organizational level. There will be online and on-campus components. The week-long online portion starts on June 18, and is followed by a one-week residential learning experience from June 24-29. Participants will engage with a broad base of stakeholders through a public conference on June 28, and meet in a small group for deep dialogue with influential thought leaders on June 29. To apply or learn more, visit Cost: $1,195. 
  • The Necessary (r)Evolution for Sustainable Food Systems Conference – On June 28, the public is invited to participate in a conference that highlights innovative ideas and initiatives for transforming the food system. This important event will inspire, focus, and strengthen individual and collective action for a sustainable food system. Topics covered will include food safety, regional food systems and food-related businesses. To register or learn more, visit This event is free and open to the public; registration is required.  
  • Food Systems Programs and Courses – University of Vermont Continuing Education is offering a number of courses in Food Systems throughout the summer. For a full course list, visit Cost range: $1,398-$3,483.

Cultivating the next generation of food leaders and empowering the local community is at the heart of the Summit.

“Change is challenging,” said John Bramley, interim president at UVM and a food systems scholar  “Through our Breakthrough Leaders Program, we hope to empower the people passionate about impacting positive change in our food system by providing them with the knowledge and practical skills they need to take their vision and make it a reality. With UVM as their partner, they can make a difference in our world.”

The Summit is part of UVM’s Food Systems Spire of Excellence, one of three areas of focus in the university’s Transdisciplinary Research Initiative. The stated vision of the Food Systems Spire, which was formed in May 2011, is to develop solutions to pressing problems in food systems through world-class research, teaching and outreach. UVM’s approach integrates four central domains: 1) food, culture and health; 2) energy and food; 3) policy, ecology and land use; and 4) regional food chains. These domains reflect current research and outreach strengths within the University. A recent survey of UVM research projects identified 149 food-systems-related projects.

The University of Vermont has a history of innovative solutions to building and maintaining sustainable food systems – and is itself situated within a state with a proven model of sustainable food systems.

 “The combination of our place and our people make UVM a natural for hosting the Food Systems Summit,” said Jane Knodell, provost and senior vice president at UVM, who co-directs the Transdisciplinary Research Initiative with Domenico Grasso, vice president for Research and dean of the Graduate College.  “Vermont is a test-bed for exploring alternatives to the current food system. We lead the nation in per capita direct-market sales from farms to consumers. And demand for local, sustainable, and fair trade food production continues to rise. Given this culture, it’s not surprising that the university has built an impressive community of world class scholars interested in promoting a new vision for how we grow, distribute, market, and consume food.”

In addition to the Food Systems Summit, the University of Vermont offers a Farmer Training Program, an entrepreneurial approach to small-scale farming; Sustainable Food Systems and Agriculture courses for undergraduates and graduates; and a Masters Degree in Food Systems, set to launch in Fall 2012.

To register for the University of Vermont Food Systems Summit programs, conference, or general course information, please visit

About University of Vermont Continuing Education

Continuing Education (CE) helps thousands of non-traditional students continue their education at the University of Vermont. Through collaborations with the various colleges and schools, CE offers courses and programs to help students explore their options to advance or change their careers. Visit us online