Susanna Baxley, MS student
I earned a B.A. in Studio Art and a B.S. in Nursing from the University of Texas in 2006 and 2011. I currently work as an RN in the Emergency Department at UVMMC in Burlington. In 2018, I received a Family Herbalist certificate from the Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism in Montpelier. I was drawn to plant medicine to find an alternative to the one-size-fits-all and stringent structure of western medicine, as well as to deepen my understanding of the relationship between plants, humans, and the earth. I worked a small organic farm in Starksboro in 2016 & 2017, and although I only farmed part-time it was enough to radically shift my perspective on this small slice of the food system. I had a newfound respect for those that commit their lives to farming. I better understood the importance of local producers to land and community. I felt the urgency for policy change for farm viability. I cultivated my love for the earth and my respect for plants. However, I found myself frustrated with barriers that felt insurmountable to staying in the farming field, such as accessibility to land, farmer income, student debt, health insurance costs, government policies, and the unpredictability of climate change. I was drawn to the food systems program to dive into the world of food production and agroecology, specifically how to make farming more sustainable for farmers and the environment in the face of economic, environmental, and political challenges.
Ali Boochever, MS student
I moved back to Burlington this April specifically for the Food Systems graduate program and to rejoin this state’s vibrant farming community after graduating UVM in 2015 with my B.S in Plant and Soil Sciences (majoring in Ecological Agriculture and minoring in Food Systems). I have spent the past five years in Northern California working as an outdoor educator for grades K-12 on a magical coastal non-profit farm, a floral designer at an innovative ag start-up, a public land use planner, a farmer, and community college adjunct professor. My personal and career goals are to merge the academic study of complex food systems with hands-on farming in a mutually enriching way. In parallel, I see a future in which I mentor and teach young adults on topics ranging from ecological sustainability to self-empowerment through farming and eating good food.
Kira Boucher, AMP Student
Kira Boucher is a senior Food Systems major at the University of Vermont, minoring in Community and International Development with certification in Integrative Healthcare. Having grown up in Putney, Vermont, Kira was surrounded by a community who deeply value nature and good health; catching frogs and building fairy houses define her childhood. She took part in gardening and wilderness camps nearly year round, where an interest in agriculture and the natural world was fostered. In high school Kira began working at a local apple orchard, where her love of farming was deepened. Since then she's had the pleasure of interning at the UVM Catamount Farm, picking apples and grapes and learning more about fruit production. Today, she is passionate about developing a sustainable, just food system for all people and for the planet, and she's excited to expand her knowledge.
Matt Bristol, MS Student
Before Matt joined UVM's Food Systems program, he worked for small organic vegetable farms and as a garden educator for two school-to-farm organizations in the Four Corners area of Colorado. There, he learned how to grow drought-resistant vegetables in the high desert, occasionally using indigenous planting and irrigating methods. Matt is intent on building food sovereignty, especially for people who have lost land or have been forcibly cut off from traditions of sustainability. He is also a documentary photographer.
Christopher Brittain, MS Student
I became interested in food systems as a undergraduate at Centre College, where I received my B.A. in Environmental Studies. During that time, I studied how local production of sustainable energy and food could reduce carbon emissions and build climate resilience at a local level. I spent time in England, Australia, and New Zealand researching models of local sustainability, including transition towns and eco-villages, and newer models of food production such as aquaponics. I also became involved directly in food production by interning at a non-profit aquaponics farm and starting a small aquaponics system on my college campus. After graduating, I moved to Minnesota, where I've spent the past 4 years, to get my Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree from the University of Minnesota. I continued studying local sustainability, and worked on policy related to food access and active transportation at the Public Health Law Center. Since then, I've spent a couple years working in community development, but missed working on food systems more directly, and decided to enroll in the Food Systems program at the University of Vermont. I'll be focusing on learning how to make our food systems more sustainable, more resilient, and more beneficial to our communities. I'm particularly interested in urban agriculture and support systems for small-scale food production, processing, and distribution in urban areas. Outside of work, I enjoy baking, cooking, and (recently) fermenting, as well as non-food related activities such as skiing and playing music.
Ali Brooks, MS Student
I grew up in rural Vermont, where I formed a deep connection to farming and the land from an early age. I attended Emory University as an undergraduate. Atlanta’s burgeoning Slow Food movement provided the backdrop for a concentration in Sustainable Agriculture within my Environmental Studies and African Studies majors. Since graduating I have pursued work in the fields of experiential and place-based education. I taught middle schoolers at a hiking-based environmental science program in the White Mountains, and most recently taught at The Traveling School, a semester program for high school women. After being based in Montana for the past eight years, I recently returned to my Vermont roots. I am currently enrolled in a master’s program in the College of Education at UVM, focusing on social justice and education. I was hooked on the Food Systems program after taking a class in the department, and decided to pursue another degree. I am particularly interested in food as an access point to larger social justice struggles, while simultaneously understanding food as an integral piece of an education. I hope to further connect my two areas of study and leverage them towards pursuing more just and equitable food- and educational systems.
Jamie Cohen, MS student
In 2019 I graduated from Temple University with a B.A. in Anthropology with a concentration in Human Biology, and a minor in Classics. Originally planning to have a career in Archaeology, I attended an Archaeology field school in New Mexico, as well as a Bioarchaeology field school in Italy, where I excavated human skeletons in a medieval cemetery. Sudden changes during the pandemic led me to re-evaluate my goals to instead dedicate my career to helping society adopt sustainable practices under climate change. I am interested in Controlled Environment Agricultural systems in food deserts, actual deserts, and other environments hostile to conventional agriculture.
Sydney Decker, AMP Student
My motivation to work and learn stems from my belief that nutritionally dense, regeneratively grown food should be made available and affordable for all people. I have worked within the food system from a young age, primarily on farms, in grocery stores, and in restaurants. Vermont’s agriculturally-focused community feels like home, which inspires me to continue farming as an occupation while seeking out innovative ways to help those around me increase their nutritional security and housing stability. I have particular interest in preserving locally grown food for consumption outside the growing season, building modest, spatially optimized, affordable housing, and widening the benefits of government-funded nutrition assistance programs.
Ellen Friedrich, MS Student
I grew up in rural Northeast Iowa, where I delighted in the natural world and developed a deep interest in the diversity and potential of humanity. I went on to double major in Anthropology and Environmental Studies at Iowa State University where I began to more thoughtfully reckon with the implications that our food systems have for environmental and human wellbeing. I developed a sense of call to work for food systems that better promoted the flourishing of both humanity and the larger complex and diverse ecosystems to which we which we belong. After graduating, I spent a year working at a farm and agricultural school in Madagascar that provided training to young farmers from across the country. I later moved to Northern Minnesota where I worked with a tribal government as they sought to revitalize their traditional food ways and reclaim their food sovereignty. Most recently, I’ve been working with farmers in Iowa, helping to encourage and support the implementation of conservation practices that promote the health of the land and address water quality issues. I come to the UVM Food Systems MS program eager to further explore how we can realize changes and improvements in our food systems so as to better promote ecosystem health, build resiliency, and sustainably meet human needs. Lately, I have been especially interested in the land management side of our agricultural systems and how we can promote soil health and regeneration of landscape health.
Caroline Gilman, AMP Student
In May I will be graduating with a B.S. in Food Systems and minors in community entrepreneurship and public communications. My love for food systems began in the kitchen with my mom and has grown stronger through my classes and professional experience. Working at local non-profits in Burlington during undergrad sparked my passion for agriculture, food access, and community-based work. My favorite experience so far has been working the Vermont Foodbank, where I am the food access & gleaning intern. By continuing my studies in the graduate program, I am hoping to dive deeper into the connections between food systems and climate change, and how communities are adapting and changing around the world in response. Outside of school I enjoy cooking, exploring new types of bread to bake for my roommates, and spending time with friends and family.
Sansha Khakhar, MS Student
I recently graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst with a B.A in Economics and a certificate in Applied Economics Research on Cooperative Enterprises. Since then my passion for the food industry has led me to two jobs; working with a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program at a local farm and working at a Boston based restaurant chain aiming to revolutionize the way we approach fast food. These experiences cultivated for me a deep curiosity about the intersection of food and resource economics, and Food Systems is a field through which I explore this. I am particularly interested in Food Supply Chains which, if altered, have tremendous potential to positively impact producers, distributors, and consumers. I plan on working to seek data-driven economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable and equitable solutions to the issues that pose an imminent threat to food security and our environment. Beyond my academic interests, I enjoy reading, trying new recipes, and spending time with my dog, Georgia.
Clare Knowlton, MS Student
I became interested in the intersection between life science and society during my time studying Environmental Science and Anthropology at Trinity College. Since graduating in 2017, I've been working as a teacher and rowing coach at a school in rural Connecticut that specializes in learning disabilities. Throughout my time there, I worked to develop a year-long Ecology curriculum that spans a huge swath of biological sciences and agro-ecological fieldwork. My eventual goal is to work at an independent school with a fully functioning farm on campus. I believe the nexus of science, nutrition, and outdoor education is the key to inspiring high school students to both find academic confidence and build the foundation for a healthy lifestyle. Outside of academics, I love to cook, read, and listen to podcasts. I'm looking forward to being a part of the UVM community!
Anne Massie, MS Student
Anne Massie graduated from The Evergreen State College in 2011 with a focus on Ecological Agriculture and Social Justice. She is a a midwesterner hailing from the town of Mansfield, Ohio. She has been a certified Permaculturist for a decade and recently traveled to Australia to further hone her craft. Anne’s a chef who owned and operated her own farm-to-table food truck for five years. She’s also worked with non-profits addressing food insecurity, on farms and in education. Anne’s interested in seeking out interdisciplinary solutions to the challenges of food security, specifically the role of Local Food Action Plans and Food Policy Councils; applying the discipline of professional planning to bear on food systems. Anne is looking to dive deeper into systematic inequalities as they pertain to accessing healthy, affordable, culturally appropriate food.
Olivia May, MS Student
I graduated from the University of Vermont with a major in Nutrition and Food Science and a minor in Behavior Change Studies in 2018. I worked as a remote health coach for two years, which ultimately left me longing to make a bigger impact on nutrition education. I was baffled by the amount of misinformation treated as gospel in the ever-changing diet culture. I spent the summer of 2019 crossing the country in a 1992 Toyota Winnebago with a few friends and my trusty sidekick, Goose the rescue dog. I was awestruck by endless miles of corn and cattle stretching through America's heartland and reminded just how complex our food system is. I was so fortunate to live some of the different climates, cultures, and food systems in the United States. I am excited to coordinate my interests in economics, history, food, and education. I am interested in continuing my career and scholarship focused on nutrition and food education, particularly through the lens of sustainability.
Megnot Mulugeta, MS Student
One summer during high school, I worked at an urban farm in my hometown of Nashville, TN in search of some pocket money and an unconventional way to spend my break. Little did I know, I would become devoted to learning about agriculture, land usage, and its role in shaping American society. Recently, I graduated from Barnard College with a B.A. in Sociology and Africana Studies, where I learned how to couple theoretical frameworks with lived experiences. I’ve interned at several community garden and environmental education non-profits over the past 5 years, which has culminated in my interest in ethics and cultural attitudes surrounding agricultural and food practices. At UVM, I am eager to further explore and understand the ties between our micro-level social interactions and overarching trends in agricultural and food systems.
Katie Robertson, MS Student
After graduating from Iowa State University in 2012 with a degree in Global Resource Systems, I decided to join AmeriCorps, which eventually led to me serving in Montpelier. I quickly fell in love with the state and the culture in regards to local food systems. This sparked an interest in pursuing a masters in Food Systems. Before coming to UVM, I have spent the last few years working in nutrition education, food access and social justice within the food system. I am particularly interested in the intersectionality of food access, climate change and social justice.
Patrick Shafer, MS Student
I graduated from Temple University in 2017 with a B.A. in Advertising and a focus in brand strategy. I had never seriously considered a career in food, regardless of my life-long love of cooking, but I quickly switched paths when offered a chance opportunity to train as a line cook at my favorite nationally-ranked restaurant. I was instantly hooked on professional food production and began training to learn technique in cooking, and then baking. In the last three years I’ve explored an array of paths in our local food systems - including food education in Philadelphia public schools, farmer’s market management, food distribution methods, and large-scale milling/bakery operations. I hope to tie up these experiences in the UVM Food Systems graduate program, during which I’ll be working with UVM Dining as an Innovation Fellow. I’m thrilled to be involved in the operations of a university food system, and I plan on using this experience to inform strategy of my long-term goals in local food systems.
Emma Spence, MS Student
From my early days spent playing with earthworms in the garden, I have always been fascinated by the interaction of man and environment. My bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and Anthropology led me into the world of food systems, situated at the intersection of human behavior and ecology. Since then, I have explored the interest from various angles, studying Permaculture in Brazil, managing a campus garden, and interning on a joint sustainable farm/non-profit where I got to help plan and execute a farm festival to celebrate the local food scene. Later, I transitioned to the opposite end of the food chain as Americorps VISTA for Gather Baltimore, a small non-profit working to increase access to healthy food in Baltimore City by rescuing and redistributing produce otherwise destined to become waste. Through this experience, I became extremely interested in food security and public nutrition, and I hope to delve deep into these topics at UVM. I have spent the last several years working in academic research and am very excited to get my hands dirty again as I dive back into the world of food systems!
Claire Whitehouse, MS Student
I graduated from Wesleyan University in 2014 with a B.A. in Theater and in Hispanic Literatures & Cultures. In the six years following graduation I worked at arts and education nonprofits in Boston and New York City while spending all my free time cooking, reading, and thinking about food. My passion for Food Systems emerged out of frustration at the fact that the mainstream food media I was consuming did little to cover food supply, labor, or access. I am interested in examining the efficacy of programs that work to reconcile two aims that on the surface seem in conflict: feeding the most people with resources we have and building a sustainable food system. Is it possible to connect sustainably grown food with people who are food insecure in a way that is profitable for the producer and affordable for the consumer? Is sustainably and locally grown food able to scale up to meet greater demand and accessible pricing? In the era of Covid-19, I’m particularly interested in policies and programs to diversify the food supply chain and build a more resilient, flexible, and equitable network of producers, processors, and distributors.
Kristen Wirkkala, MS student
My passion for food systems is driven by a mission to improve human health through a love for the earth. I see food as our deepest connection to nature and our reminder that we are a part of this earth, not just living on it. I am an avid gardener and believe empowering others to grow their own food is the most effective vehicle through which to improve health and instill a desire to care for the earth. I graduated from Keene State College in 2012 with a BS in Secondary Education and Social Science. After graduation, I spent two years volunteering as an AmeriCorps VISTA in Manchester, NH before moving to Burlington and beginning a career in nonprofit development. In my current role as the Development Director for KidsGardening, I am able to bring together my passion for food systems with my career in fundraising to help create opportunities for children across the country to learn through gardening. I am excited to begin the Food Systems Graduate Program at UVM and deepen my understanding of the many aspects of food systems and how they contribute to health of our planet and its people. After graduating from Iowa State University in 2012 with a degree in Global Resource Systems, I decided to join AmeriCorps, which eventually led to me serving in Montpelier. I quickly fell in love with the state and the culture in regards to local food systems. This sparked an interest in pursuing a masters in Food Systems. Before coming to UVM, I have spent the last few years working in nutrition education, food access and social justice within the food system. I am particularly interested in the intersectionality of food access, climate change and social justice.
Amaya Carrasco, PhD Student
Amaya has combined experiences working in the local and central government of her country, Ecuador, in areas of international cooperation, development, climate change, public policy and project evaluation. Among her relevant career milestones, Amaya was the founding director of International Cooperation at the Consortium of Provincial Governments of Ecuador. Also, as part of the National Secretariat of Climate Change of the Ministry of Environment, she was in charge of promoting and evaluating the National Plan of Climate Change. She also has experience working with grassroots organizations, NGOs and academic organizations in the fields of sustainability, climate change, food justice, urban agriculture, wellbeing and agroecology. During the last four years she has also acquired hands on experience in urban farms, school gardens and roof-top farms in the US. Amaya is mentored by Dr. Ernesto Méndez and a member of UVM’s Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative (ALC). With the supervision of Dr. Mendez, Amaya is involved in the Collaborative Crop Research Program’s (CCRP) Agroecology Support Project, which seeks to strengthen agroecological knowledge and capacities in Africa and South America. She is a lawyer from International University SEK (Ecuador). She has a MA in International Cooperation and Development at University of Valencia (Spain) & MS in Leadership for Sustainability at the University of Vermont (US). Amaya also has graduate level studies in Public Policy (Australian National University, Australia) and Leadership, Climate Change and Cities (Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences, Ecuador), Finally, she has a certification in Urban Agriculture (Harris-Stowe University, US). Passionate about contributing to create sustainable food systems, wellbeing and food rights. For more information, please visit https://www.linkedin.com/in/amaya-carrasco-483410129/
Carolyn Hricko, PhD Student
Growing up in a rural farming community taught me to appreciate the complex relationships between our environment, communities and dinner tables. My hope and aim is to inform and develop policies that recognize these complexities and bring sustainability and health to the forefront. My research interests include the interactions between diet, health, agriculture and the environment, and the roles of agroecology and ecological economics in supporting a more just, sustainable food system. Prior to joining UVM, I managed the food systems policy program at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. My areas of focus included the environmental and health impacts of industrial food animal production, institutional food procurement reform, dietary guidelines and nutrition policies, impacts of industrial agriculture on immigrant workers, diet and climate connections, and the Farm Bill. Before my time at Johns Hopkins, I worked with USAID as a strategic policy and program management specialist for the South and Central Asia region. Although I’m a small-town Mainer at heart, I’ve spent time living and working in Montana, Guatemala, Alaska, India, Kyrgyzstan and places in between. I developed a passion for health, environment and agriculture at an early age, which was further fueled by time volunteering as a ski patroller and EMT, working in outdoor education, land use planning and food service, studying plant physiology, and gardening with my family and community. When I’m not studying or teaching, you can probably find me skiing and running with my husband, hiking with my dog, fishing and canoeing with my family in Maine, or teaching yoga. I earned my Master of Public Health degree in Global Environmental Sustainability and Public Health with a certificate in Food Systems, the Environment, and Public Health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and my bachelor’s degree in Biology and Chemistry from Bowdoin College.
Tung-Lin Liu, PhD student
Tung-Lin Liu is a Ph.D. student in the University of Vermont’s Food Systems program. His interest in Food Systems began during his time studying Gastronomy at Boston University. There he had the opportunity to apply system thinking and computational tools to the understanding of social patterns in food production and consumption. At UVM, he hopes to expand his current work and explore the future of food and computing.
Maya Moore, PhD student
Maya has been working in the conservation and development field, mainly in Madagascar but also in Thailand and Guatemala, for nearly 15 years. She holds degrees in Biology and Sustainable International Development. Having grown up in Northern Maine, she looks forward to joining the UVM community this fall and returning to New England with her family and three dogs. She is predominantly interested in seeking out interdisciplinary answers to the challenges of food security in the face of climate change, as it relates to human well-being and tropical biodiversity protection. Her broad research questions pertain to the ways in which smallholder farmers are experiencing and perceiving climate change, how this is impacting their land management decisions, and how this affects conservation strategy in the tropics where agricultural pressure is the leading cause of deforestation. Other interests include sustainability, organizational development, climate and food justice movements. She loves to travel, experience different cultures and try the food!
Luis Rodriguez-Cruz, PhD student
I had two experiences back home, in Puerto Rico, that led me to pursue a research career focusing on the intersections of climate change and food security at the individual, social, and institutional levels in island contexts. During my time at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, I worked with fisherfolk communities, and in an education project at the Extension Service with 4H students. These opportunities widen my perspective about the complex issues affecting Puerto Rico’s agriculture. I intend to generate knowledge through a transdisciplinary and collaborative approach that serves the current and future conversations focusing on the improvement of the Puerto Rican agri-food systems. Currently, under the advisory of Dr. Meredith Niles and in collaboration with the UPR’s Extension Service, we are working to assess Puerto Rican farmers’ drivers and barriers to climate change adaptation, their climate change perceptions, and experience with Hurricane Maria, in order to understand food security and resiliency outcomes. Our research will contribute to a nascent area of study focusing on island food systems, which are highly vulnerable in this changing climate. To truly develop possible solutions for our food systems’ problems, we must understand peoples’ perceptions and backgrounds, and how these intertwine with institutional and social frameworks. In terms of my academic background, I have a BS in Biology with a sub-concentration in biotechnology from the UPR-Ponce, and a MS in Food Science and Technology from UPR-Mayagüez. For more information and my CV, please visit https://luisalexis.com/
Nick Rose, PhD Student
As a community nutrition educator for the largest food co-op in the nation, I enjoyed the unique challenges of explaining the complex science of nutrition to the general public through teaching, writing, and community outreach – with a mission of helping others make conscious food choices for improved personal and planetary health. Over the past decade, the nutrition community has become more mindful of the food system, and there has been a remarkable shift in consumers’ level of interest in topics such as animal welfare, social justice, food additives, and the environmental impacts of food production practices. This increased awareness has motivated me to return to graduate school to learn about the latest research on sustainable agriculture, and to contribute to the growing body of research exploring how food production practices can impact the nutritional benefits of different foods. I believe that improving the food system has great potential to transform public health, and I’m inspired to study food systems and public health at UVM, where I can collaborate with others in identifying innovative strategies to support healthy eating patterns for all.
Sarra Talib, PhD Student
Over the past decade, my academic and professional pursuits have been centred around a personal mission to better understand and contribute to the sustainable development of our global food systems. As a practitioner, I have had the opportunity (i.e. challenge) to identify inefficiencies along the food value chain in different parts of the world (including North Africa, the Middle East, and Turkey) and have attempted to address them with innovative, sustainable solutions such as the unique blending of tailored finance and technical assistance. In parallel, I have led a number of collaborative strategic initiatives, bringing together key players from the public, private, and civil society sectors to promote effective policy dialogue and improve food security. As a student of sustainable international development, I have been particularly interested in exploring innovative yet pragmatic ways to improve our food systems in order to optimise human health and wellbeing while respecting our planetary boundaries. I am excited to dive deeper into this critical discussion through my research at UVM, and will endeavour to answer the transdisciplinary question: What does a truly sustainable plate (diet) look like? I have a BA in Economics and an MS in Development Management, and over twelve years of international experience in programme management, strategic business development, and advisory, with a strong focus on capacity development, innovation, and sustainability in the agri-food sector. For more, please visit https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarra-talib-77315b1b/
Josiah (Josh) Taylor, PhD candidate
I completed a B.A. in cultural anthropology and environmental studies at Colby College. Then I apprenticed in organic farming in Canada, and recently completed a M.Ed. at the University of New Brunswick, compiling interviews with Wolastoq First Nation Elders, archiving their narratives, focusing on community and family food systems. Enjoying time in nature, I’ve been studying and teaching about botany, gardening, ecology, and health, working with schools, ages pre-K – 12. Additionally I have been researching with William Woys Weaver, working to preserve endangered, historic food plant varieties through propagation and dissemination. In 2015 the teaching garden I founded in Pennsylvania won 2nd best educational and community garden in the U.S. by America in Bloom. While at UVM, I am excited to study school nutrition programs, and farm to school and community food education projects, with goals of advancing health, engagement, and community vitality.