Bridging the Climate Information Usability Gap in Agricultural Communities

In January, ALC Master’s student, Alissa White, presented at the American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas. White writes, “I joined about 2,000 people who are mostly weather scientists and climate physicists for their 98th annual meeting.  This long-standing scientific community made the theme for this year’s meeting “Transforming communication through co-production”.  There was a clear acknowledgement that the science they have been working on for so long is now extremely politicized by climate deniers.  This leads to many challenges in communicating climate science, but social science research which indicates that co-producing climate knowledge overcomes those communication challenges.  So these traditional scientists are aware that they need to learn how to invite stakeholders into the research process.”

Here is a link to her presentation titled, “Bridging the Climate Information Usability Gap in Agricultural Communities“. Follow the link to view her abstract.

Graduate Student Highlight: PhD Student Alisha Utter

On Monday (1/22) ALC lab member, Alisha Utter, was elected as a board member for the Vermont Vegetable and Berry Growers Association (VVBGA). In addition to the VVBGA, she serves as a leadership team member for the Vermont Young Farmers Coalition, secretary for the Champlain Islands Farmers Market, and a 2017-18 Vermont Changemaker via Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR)/High Meadows Fund. As a beginning farmer and advocate of land-based livelihoods, Alisha invites questions, thoughts, and feedback on your vision of a regenerative agrifood system. You can contact her at

Researcher Highlight: M.S. Candidate, Alissa White

The New England Adaptation Survey is a research project based at the University of Vermont’s Department of Plant and Soil Science.

The purpose of this study is to generate usable information for farmers about adaptation strategies and practices, and is based on the idea that many growers are already actively and successfully adapting to severe weather to sustain the economic viability and ecological health of their farms.

Six farmer organizations in northern New England are participating in the study to facilitate knowledge exchange across networks within the region, including MOFGA, NEVBGA, NOFA, CISA, Northeast Permaculture Network, and the VTVBGA. The project is funded by Northeast SARE and the USDA Northeast Climate Hub, and supported by UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture and the Agroecology and Livelihood Collaborative.

Read about Alissa White and her dynamic research team here:

Follow project updates on Instagram @nefarmresilience.

ALC in Cuba

ALC Research and Outreach Coordinator, Martha Caswell, joined a delegation of Vermonters who attended the 4th International Conference on Agroecology hosted by the Cuban National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP) and Via Campesina. Colleagues from the Vermont Carribean Institute (VCI), the Intervale CenterUVM Catamount Farm, the Vermont Community Garden Network and Farm to Plate comprised a group looking at potential ways that peri-/urban farmers in Vermont might learn from Cubans.

Photos by Abby Portman, Community Relations Coordinator, Intervale Center

This event was held on the 20th anniversary of the arrival of ‘Campesino a Campesino’ in Cuba, and explored themes including:

  • Inclusion of women and youth in agroecology systems and food sovereignty.
  • Family farming in rural and indigenous areas, and its role in food sovereignty and rural development.
  • Seed production and conservation in agro-ecosystems
  • Agroecology, the environment and climate change
  • The financial, ecological and social sustainability of agroecology farms
  • Agrarian reform, territory and cooperatives
  • Growth and promotion of agroecology

In addition to visits to farms, processing facilities and cultural events that introduced us to Cuban songs, history, dance and food, participants enjoyed learning from each other. The 250 attendees represented 19 countries, and conversations comparing our own challenges and ideas provided a rich complement to all we were learning from our Cuban hosts. We are each looking forward to ways in which we can bring our new connections and observations back to the work we do here in VT.

For more information, please follow this link:


Reflections from the Agroecology Shortcourse

Check out the Community Agroecology Network​’s recent newsletter, a spotlight on the 18th Annual International Agroecology Shortcourse hosted by the ALC and CAN! Thanks for sharing, CAN, and for your continued partnership!

Check out the newsletter here:

ALC at 10th Annual Young Farmers Conference

Ernesto Mendéz, Vic Izzo, and Alisha Utter, Ph.D. student in Plant and Soil Science and farmer at Arbor Farmstead in Grand Isle, represented the Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative at the 10th Annual Young Farmers Conference held at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture located in Westchester County, New York.

Ernesto was a member of the lunchtime panel: “What is Agroecology,” sitting among colleagues Karen Washington, Jack Algiere, and Ricardo Salvador. Later on that day, Ernesto, Vic, and Alisha gave a talk called, “Climate Change Adaptation”. The talk focused on lessons learned from two projects in VAR’s initiative while also assessing resilience in coffee-dependent communities of Honduras, Nicaragua, and Haiti. The talk introduced key aspects of Participatory Action Research (PAR) as a tool for farmers to use when addressing these key issues. The talk included hands-on exercises for participants to take-way from the workshop.

ALC Strengthens Partnerships for Agroecology and PAR in Brazil

In the past few months, ALC Director Ernesto Mendéz, has visited Brazil on two occasions: the first was for the 2018 Latin American Scientific Society of Agroecology (SOCLA) Meeting and the second to present a keynote address at the 8th Annual Agroecology Congress of the State of Santa Catarina.


  • Within the SOCLA congress, a separate meeting brought together representatives of SOCLA, the new North America SOCLA chapter, the Brazilian Association for Agroecology (ABA), and the new European Association Agroecology Europe. The meeting focused on finding common ground to further strengthening agroecology as a field that embraces and expresses itself as a science, a social/political movement and in practice. The meeting had a particular emphasis on the importance of bringing these three dimensions together. Of key relevance is the opportunity to collaborate on publications and events  with a common agroecological agenda, with representation from different constituencies from around the world.  At the ALC, we are excited about strengthening our partnerships with agroecology movements happening in North America, South America, and Europe.
The VI Latin American Congress of Agroecology held in Brasilia, was attended by almost 5,000 participants
  • The second visit to Brazil was for Ernesto to present a keynote address titled ‘Agroecology: Challenges and Opportunities’ at the 8th Annual Agroecology Congress of the State of Santa Catarina, which took place in Santa Rosa de Lima, a town known as the ‘capital of Agroecology’. Here, Ernesto joined ALC collaborator Professor Abdon Schmitt Filho, from the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, with whom we are working on developing a stronger partnership around agroecology and Participatory Action Research (PAR). Dr. Schmitt Filho has a long-standing PAR process with smallholder farmers, working on rotational grazing and silvopastoral systems, to support biodiversity conservation of the Brazilian Atlantic forest. Abdon is already collaborating closely with UVM Professor Joshua Farley (Dept. of Community Development and Applied Economics), who is recognized for his outstanding work in ecological economics. We are hoping this will lead to stronger collaborations within UVM (two UVM College of Agriculture and Life Sciences professors) and with our Brazilian partners. This partnership aims to advance linkages among agroecology PAR and ecological economics, and promote student and faculty exchanges between the two campuses. All three professors are also affiliated with the UVM Gund Institute for Environment.

New Article: Climate seasonality, fire and global patterns of tree cover

Check out the article recently published by ALC Research Associate, Gabriela Bucini, titled, “Climate seasonality, fire and global patterns of tree cover“. Click the link to read the article!

Abstract: Vegetation systems with varying levels of tree cover are widely distributed globally, but the determinants of vegetation and tree cover still lack a consistent global framework. How these systems’ distribution responds to spatial variability of climate seasonality and associated fire regimes therefore remains unclear. Here, we focus on tree cover distribution at the global level. We develop a model that accounts for the role of seasonality and moisture in the dynamics that link climate, fire and tree cover. We choose predictors that have a clear link to functional processes that control tree physiology and growth, such as freezing tolerance (accounted for in the variable growing season length, GSL) and the balance between water availability and evapotranspiration (accounted for in the variables moisture index and moisture season length). The results show that the relative importance of climate factors and fire frequency as determinants of tree cover hinges on the GSL conditions. For example, significant interactions of tree cover with fire only occur in regions with GSL of 6–7 months or of 12 months. Our data also show a general relationship between maximum tree cover and moisture at the global level that is not visible when examining precipitation. Discontinuities in this relationship occur with frequent fires found under specific levels of seasonal moisture and temperature. A common climatic trait of frequent fires is moisture with a pronounced seasonality and an overall negative balance over the growing season. Frequent fires allow grassland to persist where there could be savanna/woodland as in the case of the North American grasslands. Frequent fires also allow savanna to persist where there could be forest, as found in tropical regions. This quantitative work is useful in improving large-scale land-atmosphere models as well as for identifying conditions of vulnerability for ecosystem diversity.

Keywords: Climate Seasonality, globe, fire, open-canopy ecosystems, tree cover