The Food & Ideas Gathering (FIG) seminar series aims to foster research collaboration, create community, and engage in conversation about transdisciplinary approaches to issues and solutions within the food system. This is a space where we can gather, learn, brainstorm, and exchange ideas. Each seminar will be 90 minutes long with time for presentation, questions, and gathering for discussion over food.

This seminar series was launched in Fall 2023 by the Food Systems Research Center and the Food Systems Graduate Program

Spring 2024

FIG events will be on Wednesdays at 3pm in Leahy 102 (f/k/a Hills).

Next: Wed. March 20th at 3pm

FSRC postdoctoral fellows will be giving lightning talks on their sustainable dairy research. 

 

Upcoming: Wed. April 17th

 

 

Past Events

Spring 2024 - Theme: "Natural Sciences"

Wednesday February 7th: Strategies for improving sustainability and capacity of Northeastern ruminant livestock systems

Matthew M. McIntosh, PhD , Research Animal Scientist, USDA Agricultural Research Service

About the talk: Livestock producers who raise grazing ruminants face environmental, financial, and social challenges across the food system. Unpredictable forage supplies, complicated marketing demands, and razor-thin operational margins are common issues among cattle, sheep, and goat farmers. In the arid southwestern US, where climate change is exacerbating these hurdles, I have been investigating novel management strategies to improve sustainability and capacity of pasture-based meat animal production systems via three primary domains: heritage livestock genetics, precision ranching tools, and alternate supply chain options. Emerging evidence suggests that a combination of these approaches could lessen the environmental footprint of grazing animal production, while increasing the number of animals that could be sustainably raised. For example, heritage cattle exhibit unique foraging behaviors such as increased mobility compared to their conventional counterparts, which results in less concentrated grazing patterns and reduces deleterious effects of overgrazing. Precision farming/ranching tools present unique opportunities for producers to meet societal demands for ethically sourced meat because they may allow producers to track animal welfare in real-time. Likewise, pasture-raised livestock could reduce the environmental footprint of ranching by lowering green water and fossil fuel use compared to traditional feedlot systems. Livestock producers in the Northeastern US are facing similar challenges to that of the Southwest, and opportunities exist to combine novel management strategies derived from disparate environments, with regionally appropriate practices. In this seminar, I will discuss similar approaches including integration of dairy-beef production, expansion of New England’s diverse heritage ruminant herds, cooperative processing agreements, and co-production of grass finished animals, all of which could increase grazing animal capacities, while meeting consumer demands, improving stakeholder health, and improving environmental and socio-economic sustainability.

Fall 2023 - Theme: "Climate Change and Food Systems"

Starting Over Again...and Again: Climate Change and Refugee Agriculture
Date:
Friday October 20th, 2023 at 2:15pm

Location: Hills Agricultural Science Building Room 102

Speaker: Pablo Bose, Professor, Department of Geography and Geosciences and Director of the Global and Regional Studies Program

About the talk: Refugee agriculture programs have been flourishing across the US for over a decade, helping to connect new arrivals to their new homes in many productive and innovative ways. Refugee farmers have adapted their existing skills and knowledge to different climates, soils and conditions while creating opportunities to sell their produce, grown culturally important crops, and strengthen their families’ and communities’ food security. Vermont has one of the oldest and most successful of these programs, New Farms for New Americans, which has farmed just over ten acres in two sites in the Intervale and Winooski Valley Park District since 2009. With strong relationships with local food organizations, the program has provided important support for newcomers to Vermont to access foods that they might otherwise not be able to obtain. Yet the land on which these farmers grow has shown itself to be particularly vulnerable to conditions well out of their control, especially extreme weather events that have increased in frequency and intensity as climate change manifests its effects more clearly. In 2011 and again in 2023, severe flooding wiped out the fields, crops and growing season for refugee farmers in Vermont. They, like many others in this state and across the country and the world, are left asking how best they can rebuild – and where? In this brief presentation I will discuss some of the challenges and opportunities in this moment for programs like New Farms for New Americans – thinking not just about rebuilding in terms of production and capacity, but with regard to broader questions on equity, sustainability and food justice.

Navigating contradictions: Climate adaptation planning at the farm and regional scale
Date: Thursday, November 9th, 2023 at 2:00pm

Location: Old Mill 325

Speakers: Courtney Hammond-Wagner, Research Social Scientist, USDA-ARS and Rachel Schattman, Assistant Professor of Sustainable Agriculture, UMaine

About the Talk: Climate change has implications for many dimensions of agricultural production from the farm to regional-scale in the U.S. and across the globe. Simultaneously, agriculture and food systems more broadly contribute to climate change through emission of greenhouse gasses. Climate adaptation and mitigation planning is emerging as a critical element for moving agriculture into the future sustainably and supporting resilient farms. This can happen through several different mechanisms. This presentation covers the documented need for adaptation planning support and implementation, and presents two case studies that represent different adaptation planning pathways that attempt to answer the question, “how do we enable and plan for climate adaptive agriculture?” We present a simplified spectrum of agricultural climate adaptation and mitigation planning processes, and case studies that represent two ends to this spectrum: (a) a top-down, command-and-control approach and (b) a bottom-up, emergent, and voluntary process. First, we consider the case of California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 which set into action over a hundred different planning processes across the state and required the incorporation of climate change into each local planning effort. The legislation applies to all basins with concerning declines in groundwater levels, which includes nearly all of the states’ dominant agricultural regions. We review the integration of climate change in the groundwater sustainability plans that resulted from this process to examine if and how it resulted in climate adaptive planning. Second, we review a novel voluntary outreach and education program, the Climate Adaptation and Mitigation Fellowship, rooted in peer-to-peer learning and adult learning theory. The program supports farmers and agricultural advisors to learn more about climate science, apply climate knowledge to both farm management (for farmers) and their outreach and extension programs (for agricultural advisors), and improve climate communication skills. We put these case studies in conversation with each other to explore the challenges and opportunities for enabling climate adaptive agriculture from the farm to regional scale in the US. We will conclude with an open discussion about the efficacy of these approaches, and the factors that remain confounding in our shared mission to improve agricultural climate adaptation and mitigation planning in the U.S.

Climate Change and Farming in Vermont
Date: Friday December 8th, 2023 at 2:15pm

Location: Patrick Leahy Building Room 102 (f/k/a Hills Agriculatural Building)

Panel:

Matt Lasser from Reap and Sow Farm
Hilary Martin from Digger’s Mirth
Bruce Hennessey from Maple Wind Farm
Ransom Conant from Conant’s Riverside Farm
Moderator: Kate Longfield from the Champlain Valley Farmer Coalition

About the talk: This panel will feature Vermont farmers discussing climate change's impact on farming in the state.

 

Questions?

Contact: Allison Spain, Food Systems Graduate Education & Research Programs Coordinator