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



New Course Alert! PSS 312: Ecological Foundations of Agroecology

Dear Friends and Colleagues,
We are reaching out to let you know about a new online course being offered Spring 2018, PSS 312: Ecological Foundations of Agroecology (3 credits). This course will be taught by Dr. Vic Izzo, UVM Lecturer in Plant and Soil Science (PSS).
Course Description: This online course examines the ecological foundations of Agroecology, largely from a biophysical perspective. Over the course of three sequential modules, students will explore the fundamental principles of ecology and their application to agriculture systems and landscapes. Students will be challenged to evaluate agricultural systems from an ecological perspective. By comparing and contrasting conventional and agroecological rationale and production, students will identify and understand how to apply ecological strategies for the development of sustainable agricultural practices.
Course Highlights: This course will give participants an opportunity to interface with key players in the agroecology movement through online discussion boards and recorded lectures. Some of the guest lecturers include: John VandermeerStacy PhilpottNate SandersSid BosworthEric Roy, and Laura Hillamong others. 
This course can be used as the one of the required courses for the new Certificate of Graduate Study in Agroecology, which will be officially launched summer 2018. 
For more information or questions, please contact: Vic Izzo, 
Please share widely with your networks, students, and colleagues.

Janica Anderzén, Ph.D. Student on PECSII Conference in Mexico

Janica Anderzén, a PhD student in the ALC, presenting a Participatory Action Research (PAR) project on livelihood diversification in smallholder coffee communities in Chiapas, Mexico. ALC is one of the partners in this collaborative and transdisciplinary project. The PECSII conference on “Place-based transdisciplinary research for global sustainability” was held in Oaxaca, Mexico. What a great & inspiring conference that brought together academics and practitioners from 35 different countries! #PECSII

ALC Awarded EPI Grant

The Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative is excited to announce that our new project, Engaging Co-Learning Through Participatory Action Research (PAR), has been awarded funding through the Engaged Practices Innovation Grant at the University of Vermont.

The abstract for this proposal states, “We recognize that participating in real, hands-on agroecology-related research has resulted in important results for student engagement and learning. In response to requests from current farmer partners for research that is useful and relevant, this proposal seeks to expand the PSS/ENVS 212 (Advanced Agroecology) service-learning course to incorporate participatory action research (PAR) co-facilitated by student interns. Four students will be selected as “Farmer Team Captains” or FTCs, and will work closely with faculty and staff of the Agroecology & Livelihoods Collaborative, farmers and their student peers, while gaining strong leadership skills, experience in conducting and facilitating agroecological research and learning what a multi-actor PAR process requires to succeed.

The project is a collaborative partnership, which includes Karen Nordstrom, Lecturer, Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences; Joshua Faulkner, Farming and Climate Change Coordinator, Center for Sustainable Agriculture and UVM Extension, and our farmer partners: Corie Pierce and Brandon Bless, Bread and Butter Farm; John Hayden, The Farm Between; Hilary Martin and Dylan Zeitlyn, Diggers’ Mirth Collective Farm; and Christa Alexander and Mark Fasching, Jericho Settlers Farm.

We look forward to strengthening and deepening our relationship with Advanced Agroecology students, farm partners, and associated UVM affiliates with the support of this grant!

ALC Student Research Opportunity

We are seeking highly motivated ENVS seniors looking for a thesis or internship capstone project in agroecology, climate change and farming in the Northeast to join a research team led by a graduate student in the Plant and Soil Science Department. What information do farmers and outreach professionals need to best support vegetable and berry growers in adapting to the impacts of climate change? This research project seeks to identify emerging trends and innovative strategies which farmers are using to successfully adapt to extreme weather on vegetable and berry farms in New England. The purpose of this study is to generate usable information, and is based on the idea that many farmers are actively and successfully adapting to severe weather to sustain the economic viability and ecological health of their farms. In this first year of this project, the research team will go to farmer meetings and conferences across Northern New England to administer a survey on adaptive management.

For more information and where to apply, please see the attached flier:
ALC Climate Adaptation Internship 2017-18

ALC Hosts Participatory Action Research (PAR) Workshop at UVM

The Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative (ALC) hosted a full day workshop on Participatory Action Research (PAR) at UVM, on September 29. The workshop included lectures, case study presentations and participant exercises to better understand what PAR is and how to do it. The workshop was organized in collaboration with the Economics for the Anthropocene (E4A) program, a collaborative initiative among UVM, York University and McGill University (both in Canada). The event received support from the Department of Plant and Soil Science, Food Systems graduate program, and the Department of Biology at UVM. What a great and inspiring day! As one of the Canadian participants put it: “I wish I had taken this workshop on my first year of the PhD.”

New Book Review of Agroecology Text

Check out Molly D. Anderson’s book review below of, Agroecology: A Transdisciplinary, Participatory and Action-Oriented Approach. Anderson writes,

This book assembles contributions from some of the most outspoken and articulate academic advocates, practitioners, and analysts of agroecology (and most authors work across these realms). Many of them have worked together and mentored or influenced each other, so they share a common perspective on agroecology despite different disciplinary lenses. Individual chapters are consistently accessible and well-documented, and refer the reader to previous writing by these authors. Having chapters from this stellar group guarantees a strong and authoritative book on current thinking about agroecology and the development of the field. As a whole, this book might be seen as a field guide to agroecology 2016, i.e., a place where readers can discover the themes and topics that academics who identify with agroecology are/were thinking about at this point in time and how they construe its history (2017, August 04).

Follow the link to read the whole review.