Extension Associate Professor; Director, UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture; Nutrition Specialist

As Director of the UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Linda provides leadership to a team working across the spectrum of sustainable agriculture with a common goal of enhancing the environmental, economic and social sustainability of Vermont farms and the broader food system.  Program areas at the Center are focused on climate change, pasture management, produce safety, local foods, and new farmers.  Her personal work is in the areas of food security, food access and farm-to-school. Linda provides support to community initiatives related to the Senior Farm Share program, fruit and vegetable incentive programs, and other efforts targeting underserved audiences with nutrition messages. Her current research involves food security measurement of Vermont resettled refugees, and expansion of food access in the Northeastern U.S. through regional food systems. Prior research was focused on understanding consumer views about food choice. In addition to her professional leadership in Vermont food systems research and outreach, she has also served as the chair of the boards of directors of the Vermont Community Garden Network and Hunger Free Vermont, and was on the board for the national Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior. She currently co-facilitates the Vermont Sustainable Agriculture Council and is a member of the Farm to Plate Consumer Education and Marketing Working Group, and Food Access Cross-cutting Team.

Publications

Anne Palmer, Raychel Santo, Linda Berlin, Alessandro Bonanno, Kate Clancy, Carol Giesecke, C. Clare Hinrichs, Ryan Lee, Philip McNab, Sarah Rocker. 2017. Between Global and Local: Exploring Regional Food Systems from the Perspectives of Four Communities in the U.S. Northeast. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2017.074.017

Abstract.

Emphasis on local foods and local food systems has often meant that the importance of other scales goes unrecognized or underappreciated. While each scale has limitations, some food system experts now assert the benefits of the regional scale for its ability to foster a more sufficient, diverse, affordable, and resilient food system. This paper contributes to this debate by exploring people's perceptions of regionally produced foods. Seven focus groups were conducted with a total of 51 participants across four locations in the U.S. Northeast. Topics discussed included the importance of knowing where food is sourced, how people described their region, personal connections to the region, globalization of food, importance of food origin, perceived benefits and drawbacks of regional foods, and the sense of efficacy and engagement involving food. While many participants were familiar with the concept of the local food system, their perceptions of the regional scale were weaker, less formed, and more divergent. These focus groups provide foundational insights into emerging consumer definitions and values related to regional food systems, which may help develop appropriately targeted messages to reinforce regional benefits.

Kathryn Z. Ruhf, Kristen Devlin, Kate Clancy, Linda Berlin, Anne Palmer. 2017. Engaging Multiple Audiences: Challenges and Strategies in Complex Food Systems Projects. Commentary in Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2017.074.016

Abstract.

Complex projects must manage many challenges, including how to communicate about them. In this commentary, we present and assess the extension and outreach objectives, activities, challenges and outcomes of a complex, inter-disciplinary food systems research project called Enhancing Food Security in the Northeast through Regional Food Systems (EFSNE) project. As an integrated project - defined by USDA as including research, education, and extension - EFSNE focused on the regional food system of 12 Northeast states. EFSNE's Outreach Team met the project's outreach objectives by proactively sharing project findings with multiple audiences including participating low-income communities in a variety of ways. We outline the unique framework and rationale from which multiple outreach activities were conducted during the six years of the project. We also describe challenges we faced along the way, including the tension between research and community engagement, and the translation of complex research to multiple audiences. While complex systems projects often take several years to produce results, we believe that a contextually appropriate, coordinated and meaningful ways throughout the project provides significant benefits to multiple stakeholder audiences as well as to the project itself. We believe this compilation of our outreach strategies may inform similar work in other large, integrated complex regional research projects.

Simonne M. Eisenhardt, Ph.D, Linda Berlin, Ph.D., Regina Toolin, Ph.D. and Stephen J. Pintauro, Ph.D. 2015. Online College Energy Balance Course Improves Determinants of Behavior and Student Knowledge, Enliven: Journal of Dietetics Research and Nutrition, ISSN: 2378-5438.

Abstract.

The objectives of this study were to (a) determine the effectiveness of a science-based, online, interactive, energy balance course and intervention at improving energy balance knowledge and determinants of behavior associated with eating a healthy diet and meeting physical activity recommendations and (b) to assess to what extent applications of behavioral theory are perceived by students to influence their knowledge and motivation/ability to eat a healthy diet and meet physical activity recommendations. A framework of behavioral theory was used to guide the selection of course strategies to improve goal-setting and self-regulation skills and to improve self-efficacy toward eating a healthy diet and meeting physical activity recommendations. A quasi-experimental study design was used to compare the responses to pre/post energy balance knowledge assessments and self-perceptions surveys of course participants (33) and non-course participants (26) ages 18 to 25.

Helling, A.P., D. Conner, S. Heiss, L. Berlin. 2015. Economic Analysis of Climate Change Best Management Practices in Vermont Agriculture. Agriculture. 5(3): 879-900

Abstract.

Climate change impacts local agricultural systems in detectable and distinguishable ways from large-scale shifts in water, land, and weather patterns to regionally specific distributions of weeds, pests, and diseases. Best management practices for adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change include modifications to farm production through adjusted intensity and product types and changing land use through crop siting and tillage practices. Farmer perceptions of risk and profitability of best management practices are key determinants of adoption, which traditional incentive programs like the Environmental Quality Incentive Program attempt to address by providing financial and technical support. To ensure that payments offered through these programs that maximize adoption, regional incentive payments must be based upon locally established costs. This paper focuses on the cost of implementing and maintaining climate change specific best management practices (CCBMPs) for twelve diverse farms in Vermont. Specifically, three CCBMPs for Vermont are examined: cover cropping, management intensive rotational grazing (MIRG), and riparian buffer strips. Results show the average cost for cover cropping is $129.24/acre, MIRG is $79.82/acre, and a tree based riparian buffer strip cost $807.33/acre. We conclude that existing incentive payments for cover cropping and MIRG are below costs, likely resulting in under-adoption.

Schattman, R., L. Berlin, F. Bochner and M. Lawrence. 2015. Farmers' engagement with community food insecurity: Approaches, perspectives, and implications for Extension. Journal of Extension. 53(4): 4FEA2

Abstract.

Hunger is an issue of growing concern nationwide, and farmers can play a critical role in helping individuals and families gain access to healthy, fresh, locally produced food. In 2011, we conducted interviews with 12 Vermont farmers who provide local food to low-income Vermonters through a wide array of activities including sale, donation, or other means. By better understanding how and why farmers work to address hunger in communities, Extension professionals can better support them to achieve the dual goals of food security and farm viability.

Laurel Valchuis, David S. Conner, Linda Berlin & Qingbin Wang. Stacking Beliefs and Participation in Alternative Food Systems Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition, Volume 10, Issue 2, 2015, pages 214-229.

Abstract.

Farm to institution (FTI) efforts aim to increase the amount of locally produced foods, typically fruits and vegetables, served by institutions such as schools, colleges, hospitals, senior meal sites, and correctional facilities. Scholars have cited these efforts as contributing to public health and community-based food systems goals. Prior research has found that relationships based on shared values have played a critical role in motivating and sustaining FTI efforts. We review previous studies, discussing values that motivate participation, and affect practices and relationships in FTI supply chains. We use semi-structured interviews to better understand supply chain actors’ values and motivations and how they affect behaviors, with the aim of informing efforts to increase the scope and effectiveness of FTI efforts. All participants are currently engaged in FTI efforts. We find a mix of social and economic values were present for farmers, distributors, and buyers. Our implications focus on the importance of shared values and relationships, the benefit of local food for businesses along the supply chain, and the potential of non-school institution markets as entry points for farmers.

Heiss, S., N. Sevoian, D. Conner, L. Berlin. 2014. Farm to Institution Programs: Organizing Practices that Enable and Constrain Vermont's Alternative Food Supply Chains. Agriculture and Human Values. (Online)

Abstract.

Farm to institution (FTI) programs represent alternative supply chains that aim to organize the activities of local producers with institutions that feed the local community. The current study demonstrates the value of structuration theory (Giddens in J Theory Soc Behav 13(1):75–80, 1983; The constitution of society: outline of the theory of structuration. University of California Press, Berkeley, 1984) for conceptualizing how FTI agents create, maintain, and change organizational structures associated with FTI and traditional supply chains. Based on interviews with supply chain agents participating in FTI programs, we found that infrastructure, relationships, and pricing were seen as important factors that enabled and constrained FTI organizing. Additionally, we describe how FTI organizing serves to simultaneously reinforce and challenge the practices associated with traditional supply chains. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed as well as directions for future research.

Conner, D., N. Sevoian, S. Heiss, L. Berlin. 2014. The Diverse Values and Motivations of Vermont Farm to Institution Supply Chain Actors. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics. (1-19)

Abstract.

Farm to institution (FTI) programs represent alternative supply chains that aim to organize the activities of local producers with institutions that feed the local community. The current study demonstrates the value of structuration theory (Giddens in J Theory Soc Behav 13(1):75–80, 1983; The constitution of society: outline of the theory of structuration. University of California Press, Berkeley, 1984) for conceptualizing how FTI agents create, maintain, and change organizational structures associated with FTI and traditional supply chains. Based on interviews with supply chain agents participating in FTI programs, we found that infrastructure, relationships, and pricing were seen as important factors that enabled and constrained FTI organizing. Additionally, we describe how FTI organizing serves to simultaneously reinforce and challenge the practices associated with traditional supply chains. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed as well as directions for future research.

Berlin, L., K. Norris, J. Kolodinsky, A. Nelson. 2013. The Role of Social Cognitive Theory in Farm-to-School-Related Activities: Implications for Child Nutrition. Journal of School Health. 83(8):589-595.

Abstract.

Farm-to-school (FTS) programs are gaining attention for many reasons, one of which is the recognition that they could help stem the increase in childhood overweight and obesity. Most FTS programs that have been evaluated have increased students' selection or intake of fruits and vegetables following the incorporation of FTS components. However, the wide range of activities that are typically part of FTS programs make it difficult to pinpoint which components have the greatest potential to improve students' health behaviors. Within the field of nutrition education, theory-based interventions that target the key underlying factors influencing health behavior offer the most promise.

Conner, D., F. Becot, D. Hoffer, E. Kahler, S. Sawyer, L. Berlin. 2013. Measuring current consumption of locally grown foods in Vermont: Methods for baselines and targets, Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems and Community Development.

Abstract.

Numerous studies have measured the economic impact of increased consumption of locally grown foods, and many advocates have set goals for increasing consumption of locally grown foods to a given percentage. In this paper, we first apply previously developed methods to the state of Vermont, to measure the quantity and value of food that would be consumed if the USDA Dietary Guidelines were followed. We also assess the potential of locally grown foods to meet these guidelines.

Associations and Affiliations

Linda Berlin

Areas of Expertise and/or Research

Working across disciplines to better understand food system concerns

  • Food Security
  • Food Access
  • Farm to School
  • Nutrition Education Theory and Practice
  • Food Systems

Education

  • Ph.D. Tufts University; Medford, Massachusetts “Agriculture, Food, and Environment” program in Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy; May 2006 Dissertation: Understanding consumers’ attitudes and perspectives regarding organic food
  • M.S. Cornell University, Ithaca, New York M. Community Nutrition; August 1990 Thesis: Food system perspectives and involvement as viewed by shoppers and university affiliates.
  • B.A. The Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington Major area of study in agriculture and human health, June, 1983

Contact

Phone:
  • (802) 656-0669
Office Location:

Marsh Life Sciences Building Rm 252, Burlington, VT 05401-3323