Article in Nature Food Published, Featuring University of Vermont’s Institute for Agroecology Co-Directors/Professors

Burlington, VT – In an article published today in Nature Food, a team of international experts delves into the urgent need for democratizing knowledge to revolutionize global food systems. Titled “Knowledge Democratization Approaches for Food Systems Transformation,” the article emphasizes the necessity of incorporating traditional, Indigenous, and place-based knowledges into decision-making processes to address blind spots in current food system policies and actions.

Diverse knowledge sources for sustainable and equitable food systems. Adapted with permission from ref. 12, Copyright © 2021 Global Alliance for the Future of Food.

Burlington, VT – In an article published today in Nature Food, a team of international experts delves into the urgent need for democratizing knowledge to revolutionize global food systems. Titled “Knowledge Democratization Approaches for Food Systems Transformation,” the article emphasizes the necessity of incorporating traditional, Indigenous, and place-based knowledges into decision-making processes to address blind spots in current food system policies and actions. A consortium of experts from diverse backgrounds, including V. Ernesto Méndez and Colin R. Anderson, professors at the University of Vermont and co-directors of the UVM Institute for Agroecology (IfA), shed light on the critical role of democratizing knowledge in transforming global food systems.

 Méndez emphasizes the human significance of this research, “Until now we have privileged western scientific knowledge, and this article urgently calls for us to include different types of knowledge and to recognize the people who have developed it.”

The article advocates for a shift towards participatory and transdisciplinary approaches that integrate a wide array of knowledge systems, including those of Indigenous, scientific, and traditional understandings. By embracing this diversity of practices, researchers can generate contextually relevant solutions and foster more inclusive and equitable food systems. The authors also suggest that this is of primary importance when developing policy that impacts food systems.

Led by Samara Brock from Yale University, the article is an outcome of an international process convened by the Global Alliance for the Future of Food on the Politics of Knowledge that brought together food systems leaders to strategize on advancing research and evidence for agroecology. Drawing from case studies worldwide, the authors highlight innovative approaches that involve local actors in knowledge production and exchange. Examples include farmer-managed natural regeneration in sub-Saharan Africa, the 1,000 Farms initiative in the USA, and the Hua Parakore system in Aotearoa New Zealand. They also provide examples of policy groups who are using this co-creator model to improve outcomes and increase adoption of innovative approaches.

Despite the breadth of disciplines of the authors Méndez points to the cohesive perspective of the paper’s contributors, “It is key to note the diversity of sectors represented in the authorship- we have scientists, practitioners, staff from non-profit organizations and philanthropists- all making an urgent call for us to democratize our knowledge base as the foundation to attain an equitable and sustainable food system transformation.”

The principles outlined in the article emphasize the importance of epistemic justice, intercultural co-creation, and knowledge mutualism and exchange in democratizing knowledge-policy processes. These principles, the authors argue, are essential for addressing biases and empowering marginalized communities in shaping food system transformations.

 About Nature Food: 

Nature Food is a monthly online journal publishing top-tier original research, reviews, comments and opinions on the theme of food, crossing the disciplines of food-related research in the natural, applied and social sciences. With a comprehensive scope, Nature Food provides researchers and policy-makers with a breadth of evidence and expert narratives on optimizing and securing food systems for the future.  

About the Authors:  

The study was led by Samara Brock at Yale and the authors of the article represent a diverse group of experts from academia, research institutions, and civil society organizations worldwide. Their collective expertise spans fields such as agroecology, Indigenous knowledge systems, participatory research, and food sovereignty.

 Samara Brock, Lauren Baker, Amanda Jekums, Faris Ahmed, Margarita Fernandez, Maywa Montenegro de Wit, Francisco J. Rosado-May, V. Ernesto Méndez, Colin R. Anderson, Fabrice DeClerck, Molly D. Anderson, Rachel Bezner Kerr, Brendan Hoare, Hannah Wittman, Amaury Peeters , Peter Gubbels, Cerasela Stancu, Stéphane Bellon , Jonathan G. Lundgren, Swati, Vijay Thallam, Jane Maland Cady, Paul Rogé 

 About the UVM Authors:  

V. Ernesto Mendez is Professor of Agroecology in the department of Agriculture, Landscape and Environment and co-director of the Institute for Agroecology (IfA) at the University of Vermont. His research and teaching focus on agroecology, agrifood systems, smallholder coffee systems, participatory action research (PAR), and transdisciplinary research approaches. He also serves as vice-president of the board of directors of the Latin American Scientific Society of Agroecology (SOCLA).

 Colin Anderson is an Associate Research Professor in the department of Agriculture, Landscape and Environment at UVM, and the Associate Director of the IfA. His work focuses on community- and people-led processes of transformation for resilience, social justice and well-being. Colin is committed to engaged and participatory research, learning and action in his methodology and pedagogy. This is anchored by a commitment to knowledge mobilization, which involves a political and social process of co-producing and deploying knowledge.

About the IFA at UVM:

The UVM Institute for Agroecology (IfA) is seeding more equitable and sustainable food systems. IfA uses a systems approach that addresses the root causes of problems in the food system. We seek to center equity, participation, and social transformation in our research, learning, and action programs across diverse geographies.

For media inquiries or further information, please contact:

Reid Parsons, Reid.parsons@uvm.edu

Ren Dillon, Director of Strategic Communication, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Ren.Dillon@uvm.edu, 802-793-2209

Reference:

10.1038/s43016-024-00966-3

https://www.nature.com/articles/s43016-024-00966-3

IfA’s publications page: https://www.uvm.edu/agroecology/publication/knowledge-democratization-approaches-for-food-systems-transformation/

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Announcing a New Partnership to Support Just Transitions in Food Systems in the Northeast Kingdom

Hardwick Community Garden shared potato bed harvest 2022. In September 2022 community gardens gathered at Atkins Field for a unique potato harvest. This was part of a pilot program to collectively grow a crop using a no till approach. Participants who helped plant, water, weed, and/or patrol for bugs were able to bring them home. They even had enough to send some surplus to the Hardwick Area Food Pantry. The team harvested 225lbs of edible potatoes, weighed after composting the ones that animals got to first! They grew a number of different varieties including the classic white flesh types, a variety of red skins, purple potatoes, and some fingerlings. Photos by Hayley Williams, featuring the bounty of potatoes, and community gardeners Bethany, Bob, Judith, and Katherine!

We are excited to announce that we have been awarded a Seed Grant from the Leahy Institute for Rural Partnerships on Agroecology and Just Transitions research in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom (NEK). This grant will support a cooperative project between the UVM Institute for Agroecology, Center for an Agricultural Economy (CAE), Northeast Kingdom Organizing (NEKO) and Rural Vermont, with the goal of seeding an ongoing program of collaborative research, action and learning.

This initiative will engage with local communities to analyze regional food systems using PAR (participatory action research). In addition to promoting community engagement and collaboration, the project will support a program of community engagement around flagship programs of the CAE (Yellow Barn, Atkins Field and Farm Connex) and NEKO (the Barton Hub).

The NEK, like many rural areas, faces complex issues exacerbated by recent global events, underlining the urgency for innovative, community-led solutions. The goals of the project are to work together to increase the visibility of current food systems work in the area, develop a Food Systems Scorecard to identify critical factors in thriving food systems, and provide in-depth analysis to inform future strategy for regional organizations.

This project is linked to the UVM Institute for Agroecology’s ongoing work to support agroecology transitions in communities around the world through research, learning and action. In this context, we are eager to connect the local with the global, for example through our participation in the international ATTER project – a global network of partners working on territorial food systems and agroecology. We anticipate that the learnings and innovations from the NEK can offer provocative and relevant insights for related efforts in other geographies and, conversely, that our work in Vermont will draw inspiration and learnings from related initiatives elsewhere.

Leahy Institute for Rural Partnership Grant Program

Last week, the Leahy Institute for Rural Partnerships announced the funding of grants totaling over $1.7 million to more than a dozen deserving projects around the state.  Vermont organizations representing a broad spectrum of diverse interests including community school building, clean energy, flood resilience, regenerative agriculture and health care access will be lifted by the first round of grant funding.

Our project will be one of thirteen partnerships funded across the state of Vermont that will be addressing a broad suite of rural challenges.

“Grant funding through the Leahy Institute for Rural Partnerships is a shining new example of the potential for innovation in UVM’s land-grant mission of service to Vermont,” said UVM President Suresh Garimella. “These grants will connect our faculty experts and students to groups with ideas for transformative projects that will make a direct impact for communities throughout Vermont. These collaborations deepen and reinforce the bond between the success of our state and the success of our university.”

Under terms of the grants, UVM faculty experts and students will work with partner organizations through student internships and service-learning experiences. Tricia Coates, Director of the Leahy Institute for Rural Partnerships believes collaboration between local stakeholders and the university will result in lasting relationships that will build long-term capacity.

“We had an extraordinary response when we announced this grant program late last year,” said Coates. “With the help of our Institute board of advisors we selected 13 projects we believe will move the needle on some key challenges facing our communities.”

We are eager to work with the Leahy Institute for Rural Partnerships as a part of this wider effort to strengthen our Vermont communities.

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Agroecology Extension (AX) Summer Research Fellowship

Exploring Sustainable Agriculture: The AX Summer Research Fellowship at UVM

Are you passionate about sustainable agriculture and eager to dive into hands-on research? Look no further than the Agroecology Extension (AX) Summer Research Fellowship at the University of Vermont. This fully-paid, 10-week fellowship offers undergraduates from across the United States the opportunity to immerse themselves in the vibrant world of agroecology in the heart of Vermont.

Program Overview

The AX Fellowship is a collaborative initiative between UVM Extension and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, spearheaded by the Institute for Agroecology situated on UVM’s main campus in Burlington, VT. The fellowship pairs students with mentors involved in diverse applied research and outreach projects, ranging from pest management to ecological landscape design. With UVM providing the projects, mentorship, and research sites, participants bring their enthusiasm and willingness to engage under the warm Vermont summer sun.

Program Goals

The AX Summer Research Fellowship is designed to achieve several key objectives:

Transdisciplinary Learning

Participants gain hands-on experience and develop adaptable research, leadership, and outreach skills by engaging with real-world agricultural challenges.

Career Preparation

The fellowship prepares students for careers and further education in agroecology and extension, equipping them with the tools and knowledge needed to thrive in these fields.

Faculty Collaboration

Fellows are matched with UVM faculty and staff, offering them the opportunity to work within Vermont’s multifaceted agricultural landscape and contribute to new and ongoing Extension outreach projects.

Community Engagement

The program is committed to addressing issues of power and privilege in agroecology and extension. Through collaboration with a diverse network of stakeholders, including researchers, farmers, and organizational leaders, participants explore complex contemporary issues through the lens of agroecology.

POWER AND PRIVILEGE

While we are a largely white-led program in a predominantly white state, we work diligently to address topics of power and privilege in agroecology and extension. To do this, we collaborate with a broad and diverse network of researchers, farmers, organizational leaders, and academics. We invite them into the program to address complex contemporary issues through the lens of agroecology. In partnering with UVM Center for Cultural Pluralism, UVM Identity Centers and the Living Well Program, we further facilitate students’ connections with campus resources focused on wellbeing and belonging.

Join Us!

The AX Summer Research Fellowship offers a unique opportunity for students to deepen their understanding of sustainable agricultural practices, develop valuable skills, and engage with extension work in Vermont. Whether you’re interested in environmental science, sustainable cropping systems, or ecological landscape design, there’s something for everyone in this dynamic program.

Ready to take the next step in your academic and professional journey? Apply now and be part of a transformative summer experience with the AX Fellowship at UVM.

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Written by Reid Parsons.

Final Call for Proposals: Institute for Agroecology Small Grants

Final Call for Proposals -
Institute for Agroecology Small Grants (2024)

The UVM Institute for Agroecology is now accepting grant applications for the 2024 calendar year. Five grants, ranging from $5,000 to $15,000, will be awarded to community-engaged research projects led by UVM faculty. Projects must be related to agroecology and sustainable food systems, and funds must be used before December 31, 2024. Full information here

Deadline Extension

New Deadline: We have extended the application deadline to 11:59pm Tuesday March 5th 2024, providing applicants with additional time to refine their proposals and ensure their alignment with the program’s objectives.

New Option for Application

Community Partner Option: Recognizing the invaluable role of community partnerships in advancing agroecological research, we’re introducing a new option for signaling community support. As part of your application, you will now have the choice to include either a community partner letter of support, or a list with the name(s) and contact information for your community partner(s). If you opt for the second option and are a finalist, we will contact your partner(s) for a brief conversation.

Grant Details

Grant Objective: Community-Engaged Research in Agroecology and Food Systems, a small grants program, will support a cohort of UVM faculty undertaking community-engaged research projects related to agroecology and sustainable food systems.

Financial Details: Five grants, ranging from $5,000 to $15,000, will be awarded to projects demonstrating strong collaboration with community partners and a commitment to addressing systemic inequities in food production and distribution. Funds are made available from the UVM Office of the Vice President for Research.

Timeline: The deadline for application is March 15, 2024. Recipients will be notified of awards by March 30, 2024. The timeline to spend grant funds is calendar year 2024 (by December 31, 2024).

Eligibility: The principal investigator (PI) must be a UVM faculty member. Co-principal investigators and collaborators can include other faculty, staff and graduate students. An individual can only serve as PI for one active small grant award.

Further Information and Application

For complete grant details and application, please visit this site or click the button below.

 

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Written by Reid Parsons.