Urban and Peri-Urban Agroecology in Burlington, VT
Our signature Urban and Peri-urban Agroecology (UPAE) program is built around a long-term, participatory research partnership with four local organizations in Burlington, VT.
We carry out research, learning, and action with community gardeners, farmers, residents and others to learn about expressions of urban agroecology in Burlington, while collaborating on projects to deepen agroecology in each context.
Urban agroecology is the application of agroecological principles to food systems in urban and peri-urban spaces. Our work in Vermont is a part of a wider movement that views urban agroecology as “a stepping stone to collectively think and act upon food system knowledge production, access to healthy and culturally appropriate food, decent living conditions for food producers and the cultivation of living soils and biodiversity, all at once. Urban agroecology is not a goal, yet an entry point into, and part of, much wider discussions of desirable presents and futures” (Van Dyck et al., 2017, p. 5).
In a predominately rural state like Vermont, it may seem incongruous that we are exploring examples of urban or peri-urban agroecology. However, Burlington’s position as a hub of both food distribution and consumption and persistent questions about land access and food sovereignty signaled that the framework of agroecology has relevance and potential here. Our research responds to these circumstances and explores the practices and relationships that emerge.
To date, we have chosen to focus on sites involved in food production, but we are open to expanding to additional segments of the Burlington food system in the future.
“The deep mutual embeddedness of farming and food systems emphasizes that ‘agroecological food’ is not only food which is produced using agroecological agricultural methods, but also food going into a system which is built on the basis of agroecological principles, and where resources are part of full cycles, that is, also going from where food is eaten to where food is grown” (Vaarst et al., 2018, p. 704)
UPAE in Burlington, VT
Click the images below to read more about our processes.
The group of partners that we have assembled represent different models of organized urban/peri-urban agroecology that we see around us. While they each have distinct missions and ways of working, they all operate within a 20-mile radius and are familiar with and appreciative of each other’s work.
The Intervale Center (IC) is a farm and food non-profit organization in Burlington, founded in 1988 (originally as the Intervale Foundation), with a mission to strengthen community food systems. The IC manages a 340-acre mixed-use campus that includes organic farms, wildlife areas, a native tree nursery, recreational paths, community gardens, a food distribution center (hub), and a suite of other programs and enterprises. They also provide business planning to farms across Vermont, restore riparian buffers in all of Vermont’s watersheds and network with groups from across the country and around the world. The IC operates in a peri-urban context, literally in the backyard of the city of Burlington (about 2 miles from downtown). Sited along the Winooski River, their farm and offices are located in a floodplain that was originally an Abenaki sacred site. This land was being used as the city dump before being purchased and rezoned in the mid-1980s. Now it is an agricultural and recreational destination year-round thanks in part to a calendar of events hosted by the IC, including music and cultural gatherings, educational and volunteer opportunities, a food hub and harvesting/gleaning activities.
New Farms for New Americans (NFNA) is an agriculture program for refugees and immigrants based in Burlington, VT. NFNA provides plots and support for over 275 farmers and gardeners, primarily refugees from various countries in Africa and Asia, to grow culturally significant crops, increase access to food, land and agricultural resources, and learn about growing food in Vermont. NFNA originally supported their participants in growing food for sale in local markets, but the participants were more interested in cultivating for their own consumption. Now the program focuses on family production with exception of a few farmers who have found markets and have interest in producing particular crops on a larger scale.
Van Dyck, B., N. Maughan, A. Vankeerberghen, and M. Visser. 2017. Why We Need Urban Agroecology. Urban Agriculture Magazine, 33, 5–6.
Vaarst, M., A. G. Escudero, M. J. Chappell, C. Brinkley, R. Nijbroek, N. A. M. Arraes, L. Andreasen, A. Gattinger, G. F. De Almeida, D. Bossio & N. Halberg. (2018). Exploring the concept of agroecological food systems in a city-region context. Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, 42(6): 686-711.