Special Issue, in Spanish, on “Participatory and Activist Research in Agroecology”, with a contribution by ALC co-directors

Special Issue, in Spanish, on “Participatory and Activist Research in Agroecology”, with a contribution by ALC co-directors

A new special issue of the journal Agroecología (Spain), on Participatory and Activist Research in Agroecology, is now available as open access, online. The issue brings together a diversity of experiences from around the world, with a focus on participatory action research and activist scholarship in agroecology. It was guest edited by  Daniel López-García, from Fundación Entretantos and Mamen Cuéllar-Padilla from the University of Córdoba. ALC co-directors Martha Caswell and Ernesto Méndez co-authored a paper on participatory action research with collaborators from the Community Agroecology Network (CAN) .You can access the issue by clicking on the following link: https://revistas.um.es/agroecologia/issue/view/18131

Martha Caswell assumes Co-Directorship of the Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative (ALC)

Martha Caswell assumes the Co-Directorship of the University of Vermont’s Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative (ALC)

The University of Vermont’s (UVM) Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative (ALC), which started as my research group in 2006, has been growing and evolving, along with our main fields of action- agroecology and participatory action research (PAR). As we continue to reflect on our work, and continue to learn and grow, it is also important that we solidify the ALC’s governance structure. In this light, I am pleased to announce that, starting July 1, Martha Caswell, currently the ALC’s Research and Outreach Coordinator, has taken on a new role as the ALC’s Co-Director. This new position formalizes leadership responsibilities that Martha has already taken on in both our U.S. and International initiatives, and across our educational, research and outreach activities. Martha and I envision sharing our representation of the ALC, in an equal capacity, in many of our current initiatives and partnerships. This change is well deserved, as Martha has been co-leading with me for several years now, and had already stepped up to this role, albeit unofficially. You can find more information on Martha’s background below, and in a recent interview she gave on agroecology for UVM, here. Dr. Vic Izzo, the ALC’s Education Coordinator, will continue in his critical role as the third member of the ALC leadership team. I strongly believe this new structure will allow us to better accomplish our mission and strengthen our collaborative processes with all of you. Please join me in congratulating Martha !

About Martha Caswell, ALC’s new Co-Director

What’s working well? What’s not? What can we learn from the dynamics of inclusion and exclusion? Whether we are talking about communities, landscapes or agroecological practices, these questions have always been at the core of my work. My curiosity has taken me from large urban areas of the US to small coffee-growing communities in Latin America. With a background in policy, I have programmatic experience with public health, housing, food justice, migrant communities, climate change resilience, livelihood diversification strategies and food security/food sovereignty. I have moved between working on the ground in communities and looking at the issues from a distance; Participatory Action Research (PAR) allows me to combine my commitment to grassroots work and applied research. My early career focused on issues related to urban poverty. Now, most of my work is with smallholder farmers, using agroecological principles to address livelihood, sustainability and production challenges. I have experience in both international and domestic community development, multi-sector collaborations with governmental agencies, academic institutions, corporate entities, non-governmental organizations, farmer cooperatives, neighborhood associations and community stakeholders.

The Farm Between wins 2018 Farmer-Rancher Pollinator Award for US

The Farm Between wins 2018 Farmer-Rancher Pollinator Award for US

Nancy and John Hayden were recently recognized by the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC) with the 2018 Farmer-Rancher Pollinator Award for the United States. They received their Award at the NAPPC’s Conference in Washington DC.


Nancy and John steward The Farm Between in Jeffersonville, VT, where they have farmed for the past 26 years. Today, the 20-acre property incorporates organic fruit production, an on-site nursery with native and pollinator-friendly plants, and a 14-acre pollinator sanctuary buzzing with diversity. In addition to farming, Nancy gains inspiration from the surrounding agroecosystem for her writing and artwork. Some of her fiber/fabric creations feature pollinators and the challenges they face, such as those in her “Pollinators in Peril” series. John, a trained entomologist, conducts research on-farm, often in collaboration with academic institutions and non-profits. He also advocates for pollinators at the policy-level and presently serves on the Vermont Pollinator Protection Committee. In 2007, Nancy and John founded the international non-profit, Seeds of Self-Reliance, and more recently developed Pollinator Pathways here in Vermont. Both efforts seek to promote pollinator diversity and habitat creation with emphasis on pollinators’ role in sustainable food systems.


The ALC is fortunate to have had the opportunity to build a long-term partnership with Nancy and John as research collaborators on both local and international projects. The Farm Between has served as a host to UVM agroecology courses for many years and the constantly evolving landscape remains a beloved exploratory space for students. Their passion for pollinators and commitment to engaging in agroecology as a science, practice, and movement are inspiring to many. Kudos to John and Nancy on receiving the 2018 Farmer-Rancher Pollinator Award – certainly well-deserved!

Nancy and John Hayden accepting the 2018 United States Farmer-Rancher Pollinator Award at the NAPPC Conference, Photo Credit: NAPPC

NEW REPORT from IPES-Food: Seven case studies of agroecological transition

From the IPES-Food Website:

15 October, 2018 (Rome, Italy) – It is possible for communities, regions and whole countries to fundamentally redesign their food and farming systems – but doing so requires changes in the way communities envision their food systems, the way knowledge is shared, the way that food systems are governed, and the values underpinning them.

This was the message from IPES-Food’s new report, ‘Breaking away from industrial food and farming systems: Seven case studies of agroecological transition’, released on October 15th, 2018.

The case studies follow on from IPES-Food’s 2016 report, From Uniformity to Diversity, which identified the vicious cycles locking industrial food and farming systems in place, despite their severe impacts on human health, economic and social well-being, biodiversity, and climate change.

The case studies provide concrete examples of how, in spite of these barriers to change, people around the world have been able to fundamentally rethink and redesign food systems around agroecological principles.

Steve Gliessman, lead author of the report, said: “The case studies show that change doesn’t always start in the field. Transition can be kick-started by community-building activities, farmer-researcher partnerships and even by external shocks that make people question the status quo.”

Jahi Chappell discusses ‘Beginning to End Hunger’ at UVM

Jahi Chappell discusses ‘Beginning to End Hunger’ at UVM

Political Agroecologist Dr. M. Jahi Chappell delivered an address to over 80 people at the University of Vermont (UVM), last Friday September 14. Jahi is a widely recognized agroecologist, with a diverse trajectory that includes being a professor at Washington State University, an analyst at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, and now a senior researcher at the Centre for Agroecology Water and Resilience (CAWR), at Conventry University, England. The talk focused on Jahi’s recent book, Beginning to End Hungerwhich documents his experience on innovations and lessons to end hunger in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. The analysis also examines how this case study can inform similar work in other regions. His deeply transdisciplinary approach touched on issues of equity, policy and the need for academics, policy-makers, activists and social movements to work together to seek effective solutions to the pervasive issues of hunger and food insecurity. The talk was co-sponsored by the Plant and Soil Science Department, the Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative (ALC), the Gund Institute for Environment, the Food Systems Graduate Program and the Environmental Program, all from UVM (click on images to enlarge).

ALC Research Fellows Jump-start On-farm research in Advanced Agroecology Course

ALC Research Fellows Jump-start On-farm research in Advanced Agroecology Course

Today (August 31), was the first farm day for 3 teams of Advanced Agroecology (PSS/ENVS 212) students, as they headed out to Jericho Settlers Farm, UVM Catamount Farm/Farmer Training Program, and the Farm Between. Students were going to meet their farmer partners, get an overview of the farm and start helping out by doing work as part of their service learning. For the first time since the beginning of this course in 2008, each of the 5 farm teams is being led by an ALC undergraduate research fellow, who will be helping support all work on the farm, as well as the participatory action research (PAR) activities that are also a new component of the course. The other three farm partners are , Bread and Butter Farm and Digger’s Mirth Farm. This year, the fellows are from the following UVM programs: 2 Environmental studies majors, 1 Food Systems major, 1 Ecological Agriculture and Food Systems double major, and 1 Environmental Science major (click on photos to enlarge).


First offering of Agroecology Graduate Certificate Introductory Course

First offering of Agroecology Graduate Certificate Introductory Course

The ALC team recently concluded the first offering of PSS 311: Introduction to Agroecology, the first course of our Certificate of Graduate Study in Agroecology (CGSA). We had a great crew of 11 participants, from the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico. The course is a hybrid, with 3 weeks online, and 1 week face to face. The face to face week was spent working and connecting with ALC Vermont partners, including The Farm Between, Diggers Mirth Farm, Bread and Butter Farm, the Intervale Center, UVM Catamount Farm & Farmer Training Program and the Vermont Community Garden Network (VCGN). We connected over great local food from Blossom, Barrio Bakery, Bread and Butter burgers, and different vendors at Summervale, ArtsRiot South End food trucks and the Mendez-Nordstrom household. We are grateful for all the learning with the first CGSA cohort, and very excited to launch the remaining courses of the first full CGSA offering. Below we provide some images of a full and meaningful week (click on pictures to enlarge).

Adelante !!!

The ALC is hiring a part-time program administrator

The ALC is hiring a part-time program administrator

We are seeking a highly organized, personable, tech-saavy and motivated individual to join our team as a program administrator. Full job description is below. If you are interested, please send a cover letter, resume and contact information for 3 references to agroecol@uvm.edu

ALC Program Administrator

Position Summary

The Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative (ALC) is a community of practice within the Department of Plant & Soil Science (PSS) at the University of Vermont, which utilizes an approach grounded in agroecology, participatory action research (PAR), and transdisciplinarity. Our goal is to better understand and seek solutions to the issues facing our food system. The ALC program administrator reports to the faculty director and research & outreach coordinator, and works closely with the core team (faculty director, research and outreach coordinator, and educational coordinator), to manage communications and internal operations for the ALC, and to plan and implement the ALC’s research and educational initiatives. The program administrator will also provide some support to the PSS program, and will be a point of contact for ALC students, and other collaborators both within and outside of the university.


  1. The ALC program administrator serves as the primary support person for the Certificate of Graduate Studies in Agroecology (CGSA) (35% effort) This includes:
  • communicating with students interested in pursuing the CGSA
  • providing production support for a range of online courses
  • coordinating logistics for hybrid face-to-face summer course
  • supporting the effort to raise CGSA scholarship funds
  1. The ALC program administrator oversees external communications for the ALC and provides support to the PSS department. This task requires collaborating with other faculty and staff to develop and implement an outreach and visibility strategy for the ALC and PSS (20% effort). This includes:
  • maintaining websites and regularly updating social media accounts
  • developing outreach, informational, recruitment and event materials
  • supporting the creation of presentations that align with UVM templates and guidelines
  • While the ALC faculty director is PSS departmental chair, some external communication support for PSS will be required
  1. The ALC program administrator provides logistical and budgetary support for all ALC programming (15%). This includes:
  • creating and maintaining information management and organizational systems
  • coordinating facilities access (including A/V technology) and vehicle use
  • managing purchasing and vendor relationships (this includes assistance with travel arrangements, plane tickets, etc.)
  • supporting the management of program funding, and cross-departmental financial collaborations
  1. The ALC program administrator maintains partner relationships by communicating with ALC students and partners (farmers, representatives of NGOs, academic and industry collaborators) (15% effort). This includes:
  • coordinating lab meetings with ALC members
  • organizing and facilitating weekly staff meetings
  • coordinating researcher/collaborator meetings
  • responding to inquiries for information

The ALC program administrator contributes to fundraising efforts for the ALC (15% effort). This includes:

  • identifying appropriate funding opportunities
  • participating in grant writing
  • managing grant submission processes
  • supporting the cultivation of corporate and individual donors

Position Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s Degree.
  • 2-3 years of administrative experience.
  • Strong public relations, interpersonal, and organizational skills.
  • The ability to work well—whether by phone, email, writing, or in person—with a broad range of constituents both internal and external to the university.
  • Demonstrated initiative and resourcefulness.
  • Willingness to be flexible and work collaboratively as part of a team.
  • Ability to manage multiple tasks, meet deadlines and handle unexpected crises.
  • Detail-oriented, with strong budget management and problem-solving skills.
  • Sensitivity to issues of equity and diversity.
  • The ability to plan, prioritize, and balance the workload of several projects simultaneously in a fast-paced environment.


  • Experience with UVM’s business and financial applications and systems.
  • Familiarity with UVM’s administrative organization and academic programs.
  • Web development experience with WordPress and Drupal
  • Spanish language proficiency

This is a part-time position, 20 hours per week, at $18 per hour. We regret that we cannot provide benefits.


Farmer research networks & ‘Agroecological X-rays’ in the South American Andes

In mid July, ALC director Ernesto Méndez joined Maria Rosa Yumbla and Ronald Herrera, PhD students at the Universidad Pablo de Olavide (Spain), at the Andes Community of Practice (CoP) meeting of the Collaborative Crop Research Program (CCRP), in Arequipa, Perú. Yumbla and Herrera are conducting PhD studies in agroecology, and working on an ALC project on farmer research networks and participatory action research (PAR) with smallholder peanut farmers in Bolivia. At the CoP, Yumbla and Herrera presented their PAR work with farmers on developing an ‘agroecological x-ray’ to assess the state of their farms and discuss a transition towards agroecology. The term agroecological x-ray was coined by a participating farmer. The CoP included about 14 projects from Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia supported by the CCRP, a program funded by the McKnight Foundation.

Yumbla, Méndez & Herrera attending the CoP meeting in Arequipa Perú
Yumbla and Herrera discuss results of the agroecological x-ray exercises with peanut farmers in Bolivia