Luke Anderson, MS Student
I (they/them or he/him) graduated from undergrad shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic began with degrees in Anthropology and Nutritional Sciences from the University of Connecticut (UConn). Unsure of my next steps at the time but passionate about food systems and with experience doing community organizing with students and faculty around social justice issues on campus at UConn, I joined FoodCorps, an AmeriCorps service program. During my gap year as a FoodCorps service member in the city of Middletown, Connecticut, I continued engaging the community whenever I could, helping people access food assistance at the local farmers market, connecting the school food service department with local farmers to procure from, recording seasonal cooking demos for the local library, and enlisting gardeners in the broader community to help with the growing I was doing in my elementary school gardens. Teaching in those schools, my love for garden-based food and environmental education grew, and I truly enjoyed teaching my students about gardening, cooking, nutrition, and food systems as a whole from the lens of food justice. Being intentional about dissecting the complex reality of our global food system and confronting that it functions at the expense of many in a way that was digestible for elementary schoolers all amidst numerous uprisings against state violence, an ongoing pandemic, and an intensifying climate crisis forced me to personally delve into and grapple with concepts like abolitionism and decolonial theory. Situating myself in that history, I was very self-aware of my own position as a white settler named after my great-grandfather, a Swedish missionary in the Belgian Congo, and saw the importance of centering the history of the land we're currently on for my students. Ultimately, my loves for food and nature were born from my childhood connection to my grandmother's cooking, particularly her Swedish food around the holidays, and the relationships I developed with the bugs, plants, and outdoors while gardening and hiking with my mom where I grew up in northeastern Connecticut, but they've grown into so much more. I'm excited to continue deepening my understanding of agroecology and food sovereignty movements and to explore the role revolutionizing our food systems will need to have in our continuing work toward liberation for all on a healthy, thriving planet.
Sydney Blume, MS Student
Sydney (she/her) comes from the bayous of the Gulf Coast of Florida. She studied Sustainable Development at Appalachian State University with a research focus on community autonomy as resistance to global systems of power. Her research and work since has centered around the climate crisis: shifting power to address it and its underlying causes, organizing for just community adaptation, and supporting more resilient food production. Within that, she has co-founded a climate justice organization, managed a community garden, supported an autonomous youth agroecology project in Mexico, and was a founding board member of a composting co-op. This experience has directed her towards an interest in agroforestry as a nexus for climate mitigation, food sovereignty and food system resilience, and community autonomy. She wants to explore wild native food crops as well as how native agroforestry systems can increase food abundance and create new non-capitalist forms of exchange around food. In her free time, Sydney likes to explore and forage in the Appalachian forests, swim in rivers, ferment foods and beverages, cook up experimental foraged and grown foods, sing, craft, and rock climb.
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, MS 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, MS 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.
Molly Duff, MS Student
Molly Duff is a Master’s student in the University of Vermont’s Food Systems program. Growing up in Vermont, she developed her interests in food and place by connecting with the community-driven agriculture and commerce throughout the state. After graduating from the University of Vermont with degrees in Anthropology and French, she accepted a position in Benin, West Africa with the Peace Corps. As a volunteer, she focused on teaching English, as well as community development projects. This experience inspired an interest in local food systems on a global scale. Molly is eager to focus her time at UVM on studying Vermont’s food systems and the communities who work within and rely upon them.
Amy Finley, MS Student
I spent almost every day after school from grades three through eight sitting in the back of my mother's classroom, watching her teach Home Economics to high school students. That's where my passion for food -- and in hindsight, my interest in the relationship between cooking and Food Systems -- began. Before starting graduate work at UVM, however, I took a circuitous path through the worlds of science/technology policy, cheffing, food writing, restaurant leadership, and marketing, with layovers in Paris to earn a Grande Diplome in classical cooking, and in Burgundy, France, where I lived on a farm while traveling the country to investigate the geographical underpinnings of French regional cooking. I am particularly interested in the role cooking and food agency will have to play in connecting the average citizen to the transformation of our collective food systems, and will be working with Amy Trubek and Lizzie Pope on their ongoing research. I am originally from San Diego, California, and excited to finally experience "weather."
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, MS 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!
Michelle Leonetti, MS Student
I first became interested in food through the lens of nutrition during my Nutritional Sciences degree at Cornell University. After graduating, I became a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and went on to work as a Regulatory & Food Labeling Specialist for large food manufacturers and grocery distributers where I was exposed firsthand to the sustainability challenges in the food supply chain. Overtime, my interest began to shift from the health of humans to the health of the planet and how they are interconnected. My goal is to help reform global food production and distribution and reconnect people to where their food comes from. I am particularly interested in the important role that plant-based diets play in improving the sustainability of the food system.
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.
Malarie McGalliard, MS Student
Malarie is a Food Systems Graduate Student from the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. After receiving a degree in Business Administration + Marketing at North Carolina State University, Malarie possessed a desire to give back to the community by joining AmeriCorps State & National. After two years of service at MANNA FoodBank in Asheville, NC Malarie was inspired to continue working at the food bank for 4 more years where she spent time involving, educating, and uniting people in the work of ending hunger across Western North Carolina. During her time as a food banker, Malarie helped to spearhead the design and implementation of a mobile food pantry that has circulated over 2.6 million pounds of food to nearly 110,000 neighbors in need across 16 counties. Her passion for finding innovative solutions that strengthen the food security net sparked a curiosity to further explore food systems, and has planted a seed for a life-long career in public service. After completing her graduate studies, Malarie envisions working alongside community leaders to build sustainable food systems geared towards empowering individuals to make healthy choices. Outside of academics Malarie enjoys hiking, kayaking, live music and spending time with friends and family.
April Mcilwaine, MS Student
April grew up in rural Vermont where she developed an appreciation for home grown food and the natural ecosystems out her doorstep. She attended SUNY Purchase for her undergraduate degree in Biology and received the Women in Tech award for her evolutionary biology focused senior project research. After graduation she moved to New York City where she worked in a biotechnology lab as a research intern. Wanting to have more connection to the outdoors she joined a farm-based non-profit as an educator, teaching on a 1.5 acre, soil based, rooftop farm in the heart of Brooklyn. Working in this position, the prominent role that food had at the intersection of economics, health, culture, and the environment was truly illuminated for her. She looks forward creating avenues for increased access to fresh local food in Vermont and beyond!
David Moloo, MS Student
Born and raised in the Sacramento Valley, I have always been surrounded by agriculture and interested in food production. During college, I worked for conventional, organic, and regenerative organic farms that produced a wide variety of crops. I realized the importance of regenerating our soils rather than merely sustaining them. In 2020, I graduated from California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo with a degree in Agricultural and Environmental Plant Science. Upon graduation, I was hired by a food company to work in their agricultural operations department. My primary role was working with their grower network to determine a set of growing practices for a rare corn variety. At this job I was exposed to the distribution, retail, and policy side of food systems that I had not experienced before. During my time at UVM, I hope to learn how food production, policies, and distribution affect our environment, health, and communities.
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.
LuAnna Nesbitt, MS Student
As a graduate from Appstate’s Sustainable Development Program, LuAnna has developed a deep passion for community development, social and environmental justice, and sustainable agriculture and living. LuAnna grew up in Asheville, NC, on her family’s small vegetable and dairy farm, with her eight siblings. She has a past in farming and enjoys the dirt under her nails and the ongoing learning and creativity that comes with regenerative agriculture and using the plants around us for answers. Having worked as a facilitator at High Country Forest Wild, an outdoor forest school for kids for the past year, she has been continuously learning from the wild and imagination that surrounds her. The knowledge she has gained from the forest has encouraged her to pursue community engagement and development work, focused in rural regenerative agriculture and native food forests. This past semester, she co-facilitated a course in the Sustainable Development Department at Appalachian State University, called All We Can Save. This course focused on the anthology All We Can Save, and brought forth student input towards hope, resiliency, and solutions within a feminist approach to climate change and climate justice. She has acted as a member and organizer of the Climate Action Collaborative, an environmental justice group in Boone, NC, for the past two years. She has participated in many community forums, meetings, events, and all of which have demonstrated to her how important community is to fighting climate change. She was a member of the Town of Boone’s Sustainability Committee, where a group of community members discuss, encourage, educate, and propose sustainable acts for the town. Alongside these things, she has a passion for cooking, food, potlucks and sharing time with others. She spends most of her time in the kitchen experimenting, running trails, foraging, singing songs, climbing rocks, and exploring the woods. Appalachia is her first home, but she is excited to make UVM and Burlington her new home!
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!
Maggie Torness, MS Student
Maggie (she/her) grew up on the Great Plains of South Dakota. During her undergraduate study at the University of Vermont, she spent a summer working for a farm at the Intervale and became involved with the Slow Food Movement. Later on, she attended a Slow Food Youth event at the World Expo in Milan, Italy, which inspired her to explore sustainable food systems back on her homelands. This led her on a wild journey learning about regenerative agriculture, foraging, indigenous history, ecology, and climate change. At the nexus of this information, she became greatly inspired by the intersection of sustainable food systems and conservation on the Great Plains, particularly with the restoration of bison. She wants to better understand the food system at large and explore how communities in the Dakotas might be able to transition from food systems that dismantle the grassland ecosystem to those that restore it. In her free time, Maggie loves walking in the woods with her dog, playing guitar and writing songs, and having deep conversations with good friends over good food.
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.
Eurydice Aboagye, PhD Student
Looking at food with an interdisciplinary perspective became obvious to me when I began my job teaching food safety to workers in Ghanaian food industry and hospitality. With a Masters in food science (food microbiology focus) from the university of Ghana, I had previously only worked with students and individuals in a similar field. These workers were however from diverse fields including construction, engineering, as well as many who had no formal education. Food safety was however a key part of what they did everyday and they needed to understand its principles as much as anyone else within the food continuum. I am excited to start my PhD this fall at UVM and look forward to broadening my perspective about the people and processes that affect food safety. Beyond this program, I hope to return to academia back home in Ghana where I can design new course modules that will make the otherwise technical and sometimes complex principles of food safety accessible and comprehensible to anyone regardless of their background. I will be working with Dr. Andrea Etter on the mechanisms of persistence of Listeria monocytogenes, a highly stress tolerant foodborne pathogen which causes severe illness, including septicemia and meningitis in immunocompromised persons, as well as miscarriages or stillbirths in pregnant women.
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/
John Corliss, PhD Student
I’m a native Vermonter who first left the state to study Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales. After college I moved to Burlington for the first time and found mentors and lifelong friends in the local food scene. The skills I learned and relationships I built in VT eventually led me to California, where I worked at The French Laundry. Somewhere in the middle of my cooking career I took a break and enlisted in the Army, serving four and a half years as a Paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division. I recently completed my M.A. in Food Studies at New York University, where my yearlong Research Application focused on exploring the American military’s influence upon, and potential to address, a range of issues within our food system. I’m excited to be home, and I can’t wait to continue this work at UVM.
Ayana Curran-Howes, PhD Student
I have a BA in Biology from William Jewell College, and a MS in Environment and Sustainability and a Museum Studies Certificate from from the University of Michigan. Previously, I conducted community based ecological restoration at a conservation nonprofit in Kansas City, Heartland Conservation Alliance. With my newfound focus on food systems I have worked for the Sustainability Food Systems Initiative, Matthaei Botanical Gardens with heritage seeds, and the Washtenaw County Health Department addressing local food access.
My research addresses the agrarian question in the context of the US's industrial, militarized food system that is based upon the compounding exploitation of the environment, animals, and low-income and migrant workers. Using a political ecology lens, I explore how small-scale, systemically marginalized producers thrive amidst this landscape and ways scholar-activists can support grassroots transitions to agroecology. My research is as much about the methodological process, based on reciprocity, co-learning, and co-authorship, as it is about discerning and acting upon the results. I want to work on undoing the trauma caused by capitalism and policing of farmers and farmworkers, creating an anti-racist food system that values cultural food ways and food sovereignty. Beyond UVM, I hope to work to design, curate, and conduct research in outdoor "living museums" (e.g., farms deploying agritourism, botanical gardens, public parks) alongside farmers to educate and instigate this agroecological transition.
Zack Goldstein, PhD Student
Zack Goldstein is a Food Systems PhD student interested in interdisciplinary and policy-relevant research related to food and agriculture. At UVM, Zack will work with Dr. Meredith Niles to examine producer and consumer attitudes surrounding dairy producer climate adaptation practices. Before moving to Vermont, Zack lived in Washington, DC and worked as a Policy and Data Visualization Associate with the National Journal covering environmental, agricultural, and infrastructure policy. Zack attended Brown University, where he graduated with a BA in Public Policy and Philosophy and examined food systems through coursework, academic research, and internships. At Brown, he worked as a Research Assistant on a project related to fisheries and seafood policy in the US, and wrote a Public Policy Senior Honors Thesis assessing the impact of US Department of Agriculture farm program eligibility requirements on farm structure and consolidation. Zack enjoys board games, playing saxophone and piano, and cooking and baking. He is originally from Long Island, New York.
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 Candidate
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!
Michelle Nikfarjam, PhD Student
I obtained my B.S. in Sustainable Food and Farming from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst where I worked for three seasons as a farmer and coordinated several food justice and agroecology projects. At UMass, I co-founded the UMass Edible Forest Garden, a ¾ acre landscape dedicated to teaching students and community members about regenerative and climate-resilient agriculture. Engaging in food production and agroecology so directly inspired me to think more deeply about issues of food sovereignty and equity. I became keen to explore these issues globally leading me to pursue my M.A in International Studies from the University of Oregon. My thesis examined the synergistic role that civil society organizations and grassroots movements play in addressing barriers to agroecological production among small, marginal and tribal producers in Rajasthan, India. Most recently, I completed a year-long tenure as a Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellow at the Congressional Hunger Center. As a fellow, I worked with Project Bread, a state-wide anti-hunger organization in Massachusetts, conducting research on COVID’s impact on federal child nutrition programs. I then was placed at the Alliance to End Hunger, a 100-member anti-hunger coalition in Washington DC, where my work contributed to their “Hunger is an Equity Issue” campaign.
I hope to bring all these interests and experiences together at UVM as I direct my focus towards issues of gender, agroecology and food sovereignty in the Middle East. I’m interested in exploring how small-scale food producers, particularly women, engage across different scales and landscapes of agriculture and development while resisting prevailing, regional trends which favor monoculture and cash crops and how to best support their efforts to do so. I also hope to explore how women farmers engage in policy processes -- from that of the local level to transnational spaces such as the UN and the power dynamics therein. I plan to conduct my project in Tajikistan, however, I hope I can eventually return to my family’s homeland in the south of Iran to work with farmers there.
In my work, I believe it is important to employ a feminist political ecology framework approached through the intersectional relationship of class, race, gender, and the environment. As an aspiring scholar-activist, I hope to learn more about participatory action research (PAR) that has the power to build farmers’ production capacities, foster more sustainable and equitable approaches to agriculture, and fully engage communities in the co-production of knowledge for food system transformation. I’m excited to join the vibrant Food Systems community at UVM while continuing to farm and garden, do research and most importantly, learn new things about this work every day.
Luis Rodriguez-Cruz, PhD Candidate
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.
Krizzia Soto-Villanueva, PhD Student
I grew up in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico and graduated from the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras with a BA in Anthropology, Archaeology, and Foreign Languages. During my early academic career, I was focused on Bioarchaeology and had the privilege of digging in the Andes. Back at home, I focused on queer archaeological theory and wrote my undergraduate thesis on Indigenous Caribbean lithics. As I learned more about global politics and the anthropology of food, I became interested in jíbaro agricultural practices and colonial foodways. My research interests include food policy, food sovereignty movements in colonized lands, and agroecology. I am also interested in learning more about spatial analysis, migrant foodways, and agricultural policy at UVM.
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.