News

ALC co-organizes Mexico-Nicaragua learning exchange on smallholder coffee farm diversification

ALC co-organizes Mexico-Nicaragua learning exchange on smallholder coffee farm diversification

ALC members Ernesto Méndez, Martha Caswell, and Janica Anderzén spent last week in Chiapas, Mexico, exchanging experiences and ideas around livelihood diversification, agroecology, and Participatory Action Research (PAR) in smallholder coffee communities of Mesoamerica. The week was both exciting and inspiring as coffee producers, academics, representatives from coffee buyers and NGOs from Mexico, Nicaragua, and the US, reviewed two and a half years of participatory action research, and set the course for next steps. This was the 2nd Farmer-to-Farmer Exchange within a 3-year PAR project on livelihood diversification in smallholder coffee systems, co-led by ALC, Santa Clara University and the Community Agroecology Network (CAN). Attendees included representatives of smallholder coffee cooperative partners Cesmach SC Oficial (Mexico) and Prodecoop (Nicaragua), the Community Agroecology Network (USA), the Universidad Nacional Agraria – Nicaragua (Nicaragua), el Departamento de Agricultura, Sociedad y Ambiente, Ecosur(Mexico), UVM/ALC (USA), Equal Exchange (USA), and Food 4 Farmers (USA). #agroecologyandlivelihoodscollaborative#uvm#cesmachoficial#prodecoop#communityagroecologynetwork#ecosur#universidadnacionalagragia#equalexchange#food4farmers#participatoryactionresearch#gundinsitute

The ALC is hiring a part-time Program Administrator

Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative (ALC)  part-time 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. The ALC 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 ALC co-directors, and works closely with the core team to manage communications and internal operations for the ALC, as well as support the planning and implementation of 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. We seek a motivated individual interested in agroecology, food systems and participatory action research (PAR), who has outstanding organizational and interpersonal skills. A detailed description of the position is provided below. For a pdf version of the position description, please click on the following link: ALC Program Administrator Revised Ad Jul 19.

Responsibilities

The ALC program administrator serves as the primary support person, within the ALC, for the Certificate of Graduate Study in Agroecology (CGSA) (20% effort). This includes:

  • communicating with students interested in pursuing the CGSA
  • serving as the point-person for communications with the College of Continuing and Distance Education (CDE), which supports aspects of the CGSA.
  • organization, coordination and logistics for the weeklong, face-to-face summer course

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, implement and actively manage outreach and visibility strategies for the ALC and PSS (35% 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

The ALC program administrator provides organizational and logistical 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

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 and facilitating weekly ALC meetings.
  • organizing and facilitating weekly staff meetings
  • coordinating researcher/collaborator meetings with ALC collaborators
  • 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

Required Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s Degree.
  • 1-2 years of administrative experience.
  • Strong public relations, interpersonal, and organizational skills.
  • Interest and proven experience in being a truly collaborative team member.
  • 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.
  • Ability to manage multiple tasks, meet deadlines and use creative problem solving to handle the unexpected.
  • Detail-oriented, with strong organizational and problem-solving skills.
  • Sensitivity to issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion.
  • The ability to plan, prioritize, and balance the workload of several projects, simultaneously, in a fast-paced environment.

Preferred Qualifications

  • 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.

Application

Please send cover letter and updated curriculum vitae/resume to Ernesto Mendez (Ernesto.Mendez@uvm.edu). Any questions about the position can also be directed to him.

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.

UVM Is: Martha Caswell Advocates for Agroecology

UVM Is: Martha Caswell Advocates for Agroecology

Two months ago today, our friend and colleague Martha Caswell was featured in UVM Is for her work in agroecology. Published below is that article by Erica Housekeeper. 

Countries around the world, from Senegal to Brazil and the Netherlands, are embracing agroecology to achieve a more sustainable food system and adapt to climate change. But one place where agroecology has yet to go mainstream is the United States.

Martha Caswell, research and outreach coordinator for the UVM Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative (ALC)*. understands that there are challenges that accompany the growth in agroecology. However, she also sees its promise as people around the world are fundamentally rethinking and redesigning food systems, based on agroecological principles.

Agroecology aims to increase the ecological benefits of farming, and bring forward the experience and knowledge of farmers and other food system actors to study and find tangible solutions to some of the toughest challenges facing our food systems. Conserving crop diversity, improving soil health, achieving food sovereignty, and decreasing the distance between producer and consumer are just a few of the principles of agroecology.

“Because of the way agriculture in the United States has been consolidated, a lot of people don’t know where their food is coming from,” she says. “What will it take for that pendulum to swing back?”

UVM’s Certificate of Graduate Study in Agroecology

Caswell and the Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative (ALC) are offering a 15-credit Certificate of Graduate Study in Agroecology (CGSA) designed to examine potential pathways toward the sustainable transformation of the current agrifood system by integrating economic, social and ecological perspectives. The first course provides an introduction to agroecology, including an online portion dedicated to theory and framing the issues, and then a week of experiential learning at UVM, focusing on visits to highlight agroecology in action on Vermont farms.

Also highlighting the principles of Participatory Action Research (PAR), the low-residency certificate program guides students to identify critical questions and practice new methods for integrating data from farmers, academics, activists, and policymakers. This approach is used to understand agrifood system issues, as well as search for alternatives with real promise to help resolve issues on the ground.

“One way to start thinking about agroecology is to consider how nature would approach agriculture,” she says. “You’re still looking for high-quality production and caring about yield, but you’re also thinking about maintaining synergy with the natural world.”

A Social Scientist, a Transdisciplinary Approach

Caswell majored in American Culture at the University of Michigan and earned her Master’s in Public Policy with a focus on poverty and inequality at the University of Chicago. She was hired by UVM in 2012, to work as a research specialist for the Department of Plant and Soil Science and took a permanent position with the ALC the following year.

The mission of the ALC, which is part of the Department of Plant and Soil Science, is to co-create evidence and knowledge with farmers, activists and policymakers and to cultivate socially just and ecologically sound food systems. The ALC “community of practice” includes Professor Ernesto Mendez and Lecturer Vic Izzo and both graduate and undergraduate students, in addition to external project partners.

“This isn’t a career path I thought I would be on when I was in graduate school. I’m a social scientist in the middle of the Plant and Soil Science department, but agroecology needs to be transdisciplinary,” she says. “We’re trying to figure out how to look at the ways the various components of agrifood systems interact. Ernesto was trained as an agronomist and is now an agroecologist, I’m a social scientist, and Vic is an entomologist. The good news is that through our community of practice we’ve also attracted students who want to think about things from multiple angles.”

One of the ALC’s current research projects is examining what urban and peri-urban agroecology looks like in Vermont. The partner organizations for this research project are the Intervale CenterNew Farms for New AmericansVermont Community Garden Network, and UVM’s Catamount Farm.

“Agroecology is based on principles, and after working with these Vermont organizations, they have seen that agroecology is something they are already practicing. Now we are looking at where they can deepen what they’re already doing and identifying the best ways to move in that direction,” she says. “At the international level, we see more of a tipping point. But the food system within Vermont also lends itself really well to the idea of agroecology.”

Part of the challenge with agroecology in much of the United States is that industrial farming is a dominant force, she says.

“The agrifood system in the U.S. is definitely structured to favor the industrial model and most policies don’t favor small farms,” she says. “That leaves smallholder farmers in the U.S. trying to figure out where they fit in.”

Progress in Agroecology

A bright spot is that agroecology is starting to open space for women to be recognized for their contributions, she says.

While men have traditionally been motivated by higher yields and income potential, women have focused on protecting against risk, maintaining biodiversity and providing nutritious food for their families.

“The people who have been credited with the first wave of agroecology are all men,” Caswell says. “But recently women have stepped up to say there is no agroecology without us and women are finally being recognized for the work they have always done.”

This happens at the farm and at the University. A recent organization by the name of Alianza de Mujeres en la Agroecología-Alliance of Women in Agroecology (AMA-AWA) is working to support this internationally. Helda Morales, Professor at ECOSUR in Mexico and one of the founders of AMA-AWA, recently visited UVM and invited Caswell to join.

That shift to highlight women’s accomplishments in agroecology, at the farm and the academy, is something Caswell hopes students will find inspiring. If she could give students one piece of advice on how to make progress, it would be that collaboration and listening are necessary for success.

“Be confident in what you know and also aware of what you don’t know. Be ready to listen and try to work on things together,” Caswell says. “When we’re convinced there is only one way, then we are much more likely to end up at a dead end. But when we open up to multiple options, we have a better chance of getting to where we need to be.”

 The “UVM Is” series celebrates University faculty, educators, and the campus community.

*link updated from original article

Introduction to Agroecology 2019 Has Begun

Introduction to Agroecology Has Begun

word cloud based on students' introductions
Students introduced themselves and what they were excited about for the upcoming weeks. Some of the most common phrases were ‘agroecology’, ‘food’, and ‘love’.

Spring has finally sprung in Vermont and the first course of the Certificate of Graduate Study in Agroecology is underway! Thirteen students started the course, PSS 311: Introduction to Agroecology, last Monday , bringing with them a multiplicity of perspectives from around the world. This session’s participants  hail from Ecuador and El Salvador; New York, New Jersey, Boston, and Rhode Island; Ohio, Wisconsin, Mississippi, and the UK. And, of course, Vermont. For the first three weeks of the class, students will study in their home foodsheds, participating online and establishing a strong basis of knowledge in agroecology as science, movement, and practice. In June, they will gather in Vermont for a week spent sharing ideas in person and experiencing agroecology in action. They will visit, work and share with 4 of the ALC’s partner farms: Catamount Educational Farm, Diggers Mirth, Stony Pond FarmBread and Butter Farm, and The Farm Between. Some participants are in the middle of their graduate studies, while others bring years of experience on farms or working internationally for non-governmental organizations. We are incredibly humbled to get to share this summer with such a diverse group of agroecologists – stay tuned for more updates from the field! 
 
Adelante,
The ALC Team 
 

ALC’s Coffee farmer Cooperative Partners share experiences of diversification project at Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) Expo and UVM

 

ALC’s Coffee farmer Cooperative Partners share experiences of diversification project at Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) Expo and UVM

The ALC and CESMACH teams arrive in Boston and the fun begins!

Leticia Velasco and Rigoberto Hernández Jonapá, collaborators from the CESMACH coffee cooperative (based in Chiapas, MX), visited the Northeast in mid-April. ALC members Martha Caswell, Janica Anderzén and Ernesto Méndez met up with Lety and Rigo in Boston, where the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) held its annual Expo, from April 11-14. The team presented findings from Smallholder Coffee Diversification Project at a panel and participated in an academic poster session.

 

The Expo brings together a diversity of actors in the specialty coffee sector to share the latest trends in the coffee industry. However, we and our colleagues noticed that key contributors to the coffee value chain were largely missing – the smallholder producers. While vendors were showcasing expensive machinery and baristas were competing to make the best latte, the producers were visible mainly in pictures on banners and in brochures. Lety noted that although it was interesting to see the Expo, she was a little disappointed with what she saw. “Buyers are not looking for friends, they are only interested in our product”, she commented after the Expo.

 

Rigo, Martha, and Janica presenting their work with CESMACH at the SCA Expo.

Despite these feelings of disillusionment, we were heartened by the words of Todd Caspersen, Director of Purchasing and Production at Equal Exchange, who joined us as a panelist. Todd shared that he sees this kind of research project, with multiple partners, as an interesting way for Equal Exchange to engage outside of the “transactional relationship” with farmer groups. He sees this as very important and discussed the importance of “building our muscles” as we look for solutions to challenges, such as climate change, which threaten the future viability of coffee production. The team also enjoyed moments of solidarity with other smallholder producers, as we learned about the current campaign being carried out by members of the Símbolo de Pequeños Productores (SPP – the small producer symbol). The focus of this campaign is setting a price for coffee that covers costs of production and provides some profit to producers. The difference between the SPP and other labels (i.e. organic or Fair Trade) is that the prices and the standards are set by representatives of smallholder cooperatives themselves, rather than by people and organizations based in consuming countries in the global north.  

 

academic panel sits at a table while a man speaks
From right to left: Nate Van Dusen (Brio Coffeeworks), Marcela Pino (Food 4 Farmers), Lety (CESMACH), Janica (ALC), Rigo (CESMACH), and Ernesto (ALC)

After the Expo, the team headed to Burlington. ALC hosted a panel at UVM with participation from Ernesto (ALC), Rigo and Lety (CESMACH), Marcela Pino (Food 4 Farmers) and Nate Van Dusen (Brio Coffeeworks), where panelists discussed their perspectives on livelihood diversification for smallholder coffee farmers. The guests also shared their experiences at an ALC lab session, and in an event hosted by the Brio Coffeeworks at their facilities. In addition, Janica (ALC PhD candidate) shared her research in the diversification project at the UVM student research conference.

 

Woman speaks to audience in coffee roastery
ALC members visited Brio Coffeeworks in Burlington’s south end to learn about the small-roaster side of the coffee industry and taste some new CESMACH coffee.

All of these events presented great opportunities to learn about the producers’ experiences and perspectives, and to discuss how researchers and NGOs can support farmers’ organizations in implementing diversification strategies that can help farmers face challenges such as low prices, climate change, and food insecurity.  

– Janica Anderzen, ALC PhD Candidate at University of Vermont

Ernesto Mendez Joins International Researchers, Farmers, and Activists in Brazil

Ernesto Mendez Joins International Researchers, Farmers, and Activists in Brazil

ALC Director and PSS Chair, Ernesto Mendez, traveled to Florianópolis, the capital city of Santa Catarina, Brazil, to attend a leadership team meeting of the Collaborative Crop Research Program (CCRP), of the McKnight Foundation. The week-long meeting brings together staff and researchers from the 3 regions of the CCRP in the South American Andes, West Africa and East and South Africa. As part of the visit the CCRP team met with CEPAGRO, an agroecology focused organization, based at the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (UFSC). CEPAGRO’s work aligns well with the ALC’s Participatory Action Research (PAR) approach. The gathering at the UFSC, brought together 30 professionals and students from the US, Brazil, Canada, El Salvador, Ecuador, Kenya, Germany, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Peru, and England.

 

The history of agroecology in Brazil is a rich one, based not only in land stewardship and diversification of farmer livelihoods, but also in the struggle to maintain access to land. “In order for Agroecology to happen, the democratization of access to land for the people of the countryside and of the city is necessary,” said Eduardo Rocha of CEPAGRO.

 

Throughout the afternoon, leaders and representatives from regional and local communities, indigenous communities, and urban farmers shared their triumphs and struggles employing agroecology in the face of inequitable access to land and its associated discrimination. Those present included Shirlen Vidal de Oliveira and Helena Jucélia Vidal de Oliveira, representatives of the Quilombo Vidal Martins Community, in Rio Vermelho, Florianópolis; Fábio Ferraz and Bárbara Ventura, of the Amarildo de Souza Commune Settlement, and Cacique Artur Benites and Alexandro and Fábio, of the Guarani community of Aldeia Tekoá vy ‘a, in Major Gercino. Also present were urban farmers Raquel Solange de Souza and Alaércio Vicente Pereira Jr, CEPAGRO research partners Dana James and Evan Bowness of University of British Columbia, and Professor Antonio Munarim, of the Vianei Center for Popular Education.

 

What stood out to most participants that afternoon was the opportunity for knowledge sharing and collaboration amongst stakeholders of different backgrounds. Urban farmer Raquel Solange reflected on how impactful it was, “to communicate with the people who came from outside and also to know the natives and quilombos, because I have never visited a village or a quilombo. As a social worker I’ve given several lectures, but that theme I owned. And to be there to talk about Agroecology, it was just my personal experience, it was more to put my heart out.”

 

CCRP members also enjoyed a presentation on direct marketing for family farmers from the Family Agriculture Marketing Laboratory (LACAF). As agroecology advisor of the CCRP, which aims to support access to local, sustainable and nutritious food through collaborative research and knowledge sharing among small farmers, research institutions and development organizations, Ernesto reflected, “Brazil is strong in Agroecology and it is very important to listen to you, the producers and indigenous people. It is very important to learn from the experience in Brazil.”

This blog is based on an article, in Portuguese, by Clara Comandolli de Souza, Journalist at CEPAGRO. The original piece can be accessed here

From Apples to Popcorn, Climate Change Is Altering the Foods America Grows – NYT 4/29

ALC Community member and PhD candidate Alissa White spoke with New York Times reporter Kim Severson and lent some insight for her story about how climate change is impacting our diets. UVM Alum Lily Calderwood is also featured in the article.

“…Couple that with mild winters that don’t kill off pests, and unusual weather patterns that don’t bring rain when they should — or bring so much that farmers can’t get into the fields to work or have to battle fungus — and organic berries aren’t such a good bet anymore. “People have really given up on raspberries on a lot of farms,” said Alissa White, a researcher at the University of Vermont who tracks the impact of climate change on Northeastern farms. “Farmers are the kings of risk management. Once every 10 or 20 years we could lose a crop. But if once every three or four, that’s a lot.””

Keep following us here, and on instagram and facebook for further updates on agroecology as a science, movement, and practice.

Image Credit: MSJonesNYC

Ernesto Mendez, ALC Director, reflects on Synergies between Agriculture and Environmental Studies through Agroecology

Ernesto Mendez, ALC Director, reflects on ‘Synergies between Agriculture and Environmental Studies through Agroecology’

I came to the United States when I was 18, seeking to get away from the violence of the civil war in my native El Salvador, and thanks to the economic privilege of my family. After several years of career exploration, and also deeper learning and reflection about the social and environmental realities of my country, I chose agriculture.  Both my father and grandfather had farmed commercially, among other pursuits, in El Salvador, and I was always drawn to the farms. Along with this interest, I developed a concern for the multiplicity of challenges that smallholder farmers in Latin America, and around the world, face to this day. These range from social and ethnic discrimination, to lack of basic services and/or agricultural technical assistance. A career in international agricultural development, a field that focuses on working with farmers in developing countries, seemed like a great option for me. 

At first, my focus was on the science of agricultural production as a means to improve the well-being of farming families. However, as I expanded my studies, I realized that production was only one part of the issue, and that strengthening the livelihoods of farming households requires a broader understanding of the social, political and environmental challenges that they face. While pursuing degrees in Crop Science and Tropical Agroforestry, I found the field of 
agroecology, which, at the time, was defined as the ‘application of ecological concepts and principles to sustainable agriculture’. This notion made a lot of sense to me, and as the field has evolved over the years, it has remained my passion and my inspiration.  The first concrete confluence between agroecology and environmental studies came when I started a PhD at the University of California, Santa Cruz. I joined an interdisciplinary environmental studies program, with a concentration in agroecology. It was here that I first engaged with true interdisciplinary scholarship and challenged myself to deepen my learning in the social sciences. As a teaching assistant, I was working with students majoring in environmental studies with a curriculum very similar to the one we have at UVM. The position that I took at UVM in 2006, which integrated agriculture and environmental studies, was a perfect fit!

In my view, agroecology brings together the strengths of environmental studies to an agricultural context. Both fields share an emphasis on inter/transdisciplinarity, valuing and respecting the knowledge of farmers and indigenous people, and an awareness of social justice and the political economies that affect people and landscapes. In the last decade, researchers, social movements and farmers have embraced agroecology as an approach that can catalyze a transformation towards more sustainable and just food systems. Two key lessons I have learned from over 25 years working in agroecology are: 1) we need to be collaborative and 2) we need to be humble. Both of these qualities are necessary to stay open to an increasing level of complexity, and to find solutions in an inclusive way. I believe there are opportunities to better integrate the fields of agroecology and environmental studies to support the livelihoods of both farmers and eaters, while conserving the ecosystem services of agricultural landscapes. 


ENVS students interested in agroecology have a variety of options to engage with it at UVM. The 
Plant and Soil Science Department (PSS), which I now chair, is in the process of strengthening its agroecology curriculum, reinforcing hands-on and high impact learning practices, as well as changing the major and minor names to Agroecology. We have also integrated the Farmer Training Program (FTP) into PSS, and are seeking for this initiative to have more interactions with the UVM Community. My research group, the Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative (ALC), carries out agroecological investigations in Vermont and Latin America, with a long trajectory of work supporting environmental conservation and farmer livelihoods in smallholder coffee cooperatives. We have recently launched a 2-semester ALC Undergraduate Research Fellows Program (see a UVM Communications story about the program here), with a focus on agroecology and Participatory Action Research (PAR). All of these are collaborative initiatives, which have brought together a diversity of faculty, staff and students from PSS, ENVS, UVM Extension and others outside of UVM. 

Agroecology can help study and address a range of issues in agriculture, including ecological analysis of practices, options to improve farmer livelihoods, and how researchers and social movements can work together to advocate for better policies. As both an ENVS and PSS professor, I am really looking forward to building stronger partnerships between our growing agroecology initiatives and the Environmental Program’s students, faculty and staff.  


–Ernesto

The first cohort of ALC Undergraduate Research Fellows at a farmer partner dinner held in 2018, at Jericho Settlers Farm. From left to right Karen Nordstrom (ENVS Advisor), Nell Carpenter (ENVS ALC Fellow), Allie Pankoff (ENSC ALC Fellow), Lizzy Holiman (Food Systems & Eco-Ag ALC Fellow), Emily McCarthy (ENVS ALC Fellow), Elise Schumacher (Food systems and ALC Fellow) and Ernesto Méndez (ALC/PSS and ENVS).

Picture of a shaded coffee farm in Chiapas, Mexico, owned by a member of the CESMACH cooperative, showing a diversity of land uses and agricultural activities. The ALC has an ongoing project on diversification in Mexico and Nicaragua.