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.
The Institute will be officially launched in 2023.
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.
Three Pillars That Underpin the Institute for Agroecology
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Institute Programs in Development
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.
High impact learning opportunities for undergraduate students, including opportunities for international placements and contributions to Vermont and international community agroecology projects
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.
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.
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.
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, The 11th Hour Project and other supporters.