University of Vermont’s Institute for Agroecology

With the imminent launch of the Institute for Agroecology, our aim is to mobilize knowledge in transitions to just and sustainable food systems, both in our home state of Vermont and around the world.

UVM’s Institute for Agroecology (IFA) will be a lighthouse for agroecology knowledge mobilization. The Institute will connect committed researchers, community organizers, food producers, students, social movement actors and civil society leaders who will collaborate to push boundaries and co-construct impactful research, learning and action. This is a new chapter for Agroecology at UVM, building on a decade of work by members of the Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative, a Community of Practice that will become nested within the new institute.

Pending final approvals by the UVM leadership, the Institute will be officially launched in 2023. 

The Institute for Agroecology is a featured program in UVM's campaign for breakthrough research. Click this image to learn more about how to support the institute through SOLVE.

Context

Our food system is in crisis. We can no longer deny that the current model is exploitative of both human and natural resources, and unable to sustain and nourish the world.

Agroecology offers an alternative paradigm for food and farming that will build back agricultural biodiversity, confront climate change, address inequity and activate the power of farmers and citizens through transformations that aim for a thriving society and planet.
The Institute will connect work across the local and global through research, learning and action for just transitions in food systems at home and abroad.
Image adapted from the McKnight Foundation.

Three Pillars That Underpin the Institute for Agroecology

Three pillars will ground the work of the Institute: 

  1. Transforming Food Systems for Just Sustainability 
    Many sustainability approaches emphasize ‘technical fixes’ that tweak the existing food system without fundamentally changing its structure. In contrast, we focus on processes of social transformation as the primary conduit through which ecologically sound and socially just food systems will finally emerge. This requires systems level analysis and action that integrates ecological, economic, social and political dimensions, and where we attend to leverage points for change. 
  2. Participatory, Transdisciplinary and Action Research 
    The Institute will focus on Participatory Action Research (PAR) approaches, which place the needs and agency of civil society partners (e.g., communities, smallholder farmers, organizations) at the heart of the research process and recognizes the value of diverse forms and sources of knowledge. UVM has deep experience with PAR, which has now become internationally recognized as a leading approach to knowledge production for agroecology.
  3. Centering Equity 
    Today’s food systems are fraught with inequity and reflect deeply exploitative land and labor relations, gender and racial inequality and an extractive relationship between the global north and south.  We recognize that if we are not actively working to change who has power and how we work together in reciprocal relationships, we will be complicit in reinforcing these patterns of oppression. 

Approach – Locally rooted, globally connected

Transcending the boundaries of research, learning, extension and action through engaged co-creation of knowledge, the Institute will focus on the following five action strategies to support the transformation towards ecologically sound and socially just food systems. .

IFA_DigDeep
Dig Deep: Lead and facilitate critical transdisciplinary action research that explores alternatives to improve conditions and pursue approaches to persistent challenges
IFA_Cross-polliante
Cross-Pollinate: Co-convening people and networks within and outside of academia, fostering connections among diverse voices and knowledge systems across local, national, and international networks for collaboration, learning and action.
IFA_Amplify
Amplify: Create platforms for communication and storytelling that amplify compelling agroecology narratives for ecologically sound and socially just food systems.
IFA_Cultivate
Cultivate: Prepare the next generation of transformative agroecological leaders through undergraduate, graduate, community and professional co-learning opportunities.
IFA_Activate
Activate: Engage with local economic, social and cultural development processes already underway, in Vermont and beyond, to foster agroecology in place. This area of work is about action and directly supporting transitions on the ground.

Institute Programs in Development

International Knowledge Network for Agroecology Transformations
In collaboration with international partners in the global north and south, this program will include joint doctoral training, staff exchange and joint externally funded research projects on agroecology transitions.
Agroecology Learning Programs Fellowships
High impact learning opportunities for undergraduate students, including opportunities for international placements and contributions to Vermont and international community agroecology projects
Agroecology Support Program
The Institute will provide advice, accompaniment, training, co-learning, systemization and research to NGOs, donors, governments and other actors seeking support to bring transformative agroecology into their work.
Vermont Participatory Action Research for Transitions UVM Faculty and Students will work with farmers and other actors to engage in Participatory Action Research processes to study and support agroecological transitions in Vermont and beyond.
Annual International Agroecology Summit
Each year, the Institute will host a high-profile international summit of world leaders on agroecology transitions including scientists, funders, social movements and a diversity of institutions.

Global Agroecology Leaders Program
International program bringing together annual cohorts of diverse global agroecology leaders for leadership development, networking and engagement.

Online Agroecology Resource Platform
A curated global online knowledge source for web-based resources, case studies, videos, research, evidence and other materials that support and inspire agroecology transitions and transformations.

Supporters

This initiative is supported by UVM’s Office for the Vice President of Research, the Provost and the President of the University of Vermont. The development of the Institute has also received support from the McKnight Foundation and other supporters.

Contact

Martha Caswell
Associate Director of Community and Learning
martha.caswell@uvm.edu
Colin Anderson
Associate Director of Research
colin.anderson@uvm.edu