Luke Anderson, MS Student
I (they/them) 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.
Matt Bristol, MS Candidate
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.
Jamie Cohen, MS Candidate
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.
Quinn DiFalco, MS Student
Quinn (she/they) graduated from the University of Vermont in 2021 with a double-major in Health and Society and a self-designed major in Interdisciplinary Consciousness Studies with a Certificate in Integrative Health Care. At UVM, she worked in research assistant positions focusing on the role of diet as it pertains to mental and physical reports of well-being and gathered data on pharmaceutical packaging and state disposal guidelines to provide further insight into their presence in various bodies of water. In 2022 she worked as an apprentice at the Vermont Garden Network where she assisted at the Community Teaching Garden, New Farms for New Americans, and the Shift Meals Co-op Victory Garden where she continues to cultivate her green thumb through collective gardening. She is interested in the role of land management policy as it relates to food sovereignty, climate justice, and public health. Additionally, she hopes to grow in knowledge and skill around agroecology to further support farmers in adapting to climate change and land degradation.
Molly Duff, MS Candidate
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.
Lydia Duncan, AMP Student
Lydia (she/her) is a mostly born and raised Vermonter: she was born in Norwich, VT, went to preschool in the inner city of Boston, began elementary school on the Navajo reservation in Fort Defiance, AZ, and continued in rural Utah, then circled back to Vermont 13 years ago and now resides in the Burlington area. Lydia was drawn to UVM’s emerging Food Systems program and recently joined the Accelerated Masters Program after completing her BS degree in Food Systems. In her undergraduate studies, she found herself yearning to explore alternative food systems, both as an effort to revitalize culture and as a movement toward sustainable systems and food justice. Lydia is passionate about facilitating meaningful connections between people and food that intentionally nourishes their body, provides pleasure, and honors choice and culture. She focuses on Indigenous food sovereignty and agroecology which provide an intersection of her interests in human rights, environmental stewardship, culture, and cuisine. Outside of academics, Lydia has spent the past three years working at a regenerative, organic farm in Vermont. She currently works with Farmacy, a food as medicine program in Rutland, VT, as well as a UVM research initiative on food security for VT migrant workers and New American populations. In her free time she enjoys walks in the woods with her newly adopted pug Frankie, paddle boarding, yoga, foraging, cooking vegetarian meals, and exploring local food spots. Lydia is excited to connect with like-minded folks through the UVM Food Systems AMP program and to continue learning about agroecology and food access, justice, and sovereignty
Alida Farrell, MS Student
Alida (she/her) grew up on the coast of Maine. After graduating from high school in Portland, she spent a year farming in Spain and New Zealand, where her interest in food systems was sparked. Alida earned a BA in Philosophy and Environmental Studies at St. Lawrence University in 2017, making sustainable agriculture the center of her senior research. Since 2018, Alida has been living in Vermont and working in the food system in various capacities— Most recently as a farm hand and summer camp cook, and previously as a Local Food Access Coordinator where she managed hunger relief programs, and worked with charitable organizations to increase their local food offerings. Before the pandemic, Alida worked as a Farm-to-School Coordinator, educating elementary students through cooking and gardening, encouraging them to build a deeper understanding of where our food comes from and its impact on our bodies, communities, and ecosystems. As an MS student in the Food Systems Program at UVM, Alida is thrilled to be deepening her own understanding of food’s impact on our bodies, communities and ecosystems. Alida recognizes the inseparable link between these metrics of sustainability and sees great potential for improvements in our food system to influence social, economic, and environmental justice. In her free time, Alida enjoys crafting of all kinds (sewing, ceramics, stained glass, printmaking) and spending time in nature.
Amy Finley, MS Candidate
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."
Claire Fischer, MS Student
Claire (she/her) graduated in May 2021 from Xavier University with a BS in Environmental Science and Psychology and a minor in Peace and Justice Studies. Despite growing up in a rural western New York town surrounded by farms, her interest in agriculture did not really flourish until she started volunteering with an urban homesteader in Cincinnati more or less as just something to do in light of the Covid-19 pandemic during the summer of 2020, but grew into a love for cultivating food, community, and a connection to nature through agriculture. Since graduating, she has been working on an urban co-operative farm in Cincinnati, OH, which has allowed her to grow her hands-on cultivation and farming skills, as well as see how sustainable farms enrich the land, the communities they serve, and the individuals that cultivate them. Through both her studies in school and farm experience, Claire has come to understand agriculture and our larger food system as central to the human experience, both historically and presently, exerting influence in almost innumerable ways. While navigating (through a somewhat circuitous and meandering route at times) her undergraduate career, Claire came to realize the cruciality of interdisciplinary learning and is thrilled to be able to study our food system from so many angles. In her free time, Claire enjoys cooking with friends, hiking, and spending quality time with her cat, Ben.
Maeve Forbes, AMP Student
Maeve (she/her) is from the little beach town of Wells, Maine and is finishing her Undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies here at UVM while beginning the Food Systems Masters program. She is passionate about food sovereignty, and policy in relation to the American as well as the global food system.As an undergraduate she was the Chair of the UVM Student Government Committee on Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity, an undergraduate research assistant for a project in Evolutionary Plant Based Mixtures, and the Co-Manager of Rally Cat’s Cupboard, the food pantry here on campus. Her favorite hobbies outside of school include skiing, reading, knitting, and watching documentaries with her roommates. She will continue running the pantry throughout her masters program and is available to help anyone through email or the Cupboard instagram page.
Ellen Friedrich, MS Candidate
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.
Catherine Horwitz, MS Student
I grew up in Rhode Island, where my interest in food systems first began. I spent my summers home from college working at various food justice organizations around the state: working on an urban farm, managing food access programs at farmers markets, maintaining community gardens, and running educational programming for kids on a coastal farm. While getting my B.A. in Philosophy and Legal Studies from Kenyon College, I spent a semester abroad studying the global food system in Ecuador, Malawi, and Italy. Upon returning to rural Ohio, I was eager to connect with local farmers, so I conducted my senior Legal Studies research on the effects of Right to Farm Laws on midsized corn, soy, and cattle farmers. I then moved to Portland, Oregon, where I spent one year as an AmeriCorps member running gardening and cooking education programs at a food bank, and another AmeriCorps year managing an educational garden at Portland Community College. I’m so excited to return to New England and to start making connections in the Burlington community! In my free time, I enjoy trail running, playing ultimate frisbee, and cooking food with my loved ones.
Michelle Leonetti, MS Candidate
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.
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 Candidate
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!
Autumn Moen, MS Student
Autumn (she/her) is an east coast transplant from the heart of the Midwest; Iowa. Contrary to popular belief, she did NOT grow up on a corn and soybean farm, but rather developed her love of food systems later in life. After graduating from the University of Iowa with BA’s in Public Health and Spanish, and a Certificate in Sustainability in 2020, she moved to Chicago where she spent two years serving as an Americorps member with the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Through her work in food access programming, regular volunteering with the Logan Square Farmer’s Market, and patio gardening, she realized that food systems was the perfect union of public health and climate change that she’d been searching for! Outside of the obvious hobbies of tending to her plants and cooking yummy vegetarian dinners, Autumn also enjoys getting outside for a hike, exploring breweries with friends, and reading way too many books (but she would argue there is no such thing).
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.
Katherine Morrissey, AMP Student
Katherine is entering into the Food Systems Masters program on the accelerated track, having done her undergraduate studies in Food Systems at UVM. Growing up, her one true passion was food, and she always thought she would make that into a career. Originally planning on pursuing food science, Katherine found her passion when learning about the food system and the ways in which it involves food, people, and the environment. Her undergraduate research investigates the relationships between on-farm crop diversity, market access, and dietary outcomes among smallholder farmers in Uganda. She also works on a Conservation Innovation Grant for UVM, Biological Capital, Vermont Land Trust, and Philo Ridge Farm, which is collecting data on sustainable livestock management practices. Her interests include community nutrition, sustainable agriculture, farmer livelihoods, and the socioeconomic factors behind decision making within the food system.
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!
Claire Ryan, MS Student
Claire graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in spring of 2022 with a dual degree in Sociology, and Food Science and Human Nutrition (with a concentration in Dietetics). During her time at UIUC, she worked as an undergraduate research assistant to study the nutritional content of items offered by an on-campus food pantry and the food insecurity rates of the food pantry patrons. In her role on the executive board of a club that visited elementary schools to teach students about healthy eating, Claire was one of two Curriculum Managers who created lessons and activities for the classroom visits. As an MS student in UVM’s Food Systems program, she’s interested in studying how people, particularly those experiencing food insecurity, interact with their food environments. Her goal is to understand how to develop systems that favor the acquisition of nutritious, sustainable, and affordable foods. Additionally, she is interested in food policy and how targeted initiatives can improve access while maintaining the autonomy of both consumers and producers. Claire is originally from State College, PA. In her free time, she enjoys watching movies, reading, weightlifting, cooking, combing through record stores, and going on long walks with her dogs.
Patrick Shafer, MS Candidate
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.
Sophie Springer, MS Student
Sophie (she/her) grew up in Maryland, where her proximity to DC and the Chesapeake Bay piqued her interest in social movements and environmentalism. After a particularly life-changing semester abroad her junior year of college in which she did a comparative study of food systems in Ecuador, Malawi, and Italy, she knew food justice was the avenue in which she could connect her passion for people and the planet. Sophie graduated from Bucknell University in 2020 with a degree in Managing for Sustainability and a minor in Food Systems, and worked with the newly-formed campus farm for her capstone project. Since graduating, she has been working in a preschool classroom in DC as an AmeriCorps member. Sophie can't wait to expand her understanding of the complexities of the food system and to become a part of the UVM and Burlington community.
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.
Saadatu Abdul,Rahaman, PhD Student
Saadatu became interested in food and its related issues during my Community Nutrition degree at the University for Development Studies. After graduating, she volunteered with an NGO working on food security interventions and got to experience first-hand, the interconnectedness between nutrition, agriculture, and health. Over the past 12 years, she has worked as a project officer, project consultant and as a project coordinator of several international development projects that focused on improving nutritional outcomes, promoting food security, improving market systems and providing sustainable livelihood options especially in rural communities in Nigeria and Ghana. These projects have exposed her to the emerging realties of food security, rural nutrition, community health, food systems as well as livelihoods sustainability. Thus, present the need to continue learning and doing research to unravel the complexities surrounding food systems and nutrition, especially as it relates to community health within current environmental realities – and proffer relevant, policy-driven and sustainable solutions to address the problems therein. Saadatu is particularly interested in the role food environments play in populations sustainably adopting a plant-based diet.
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/
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.
Janet Gamble, PhD Student
Originally from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Canada, I now call Vermont home along with my husband Ed and our two mini schnauzers Keebler and Tetley (yup, they’re named after cookies and tea). My life’s journey has so far afforded me the opportunity to have lived, traveled, worked and educated myself in many countries around the world. During my time as both an educator and as a Registered Dietitian I have begun to question how we teach nutrition. Is there a way to maximize nutritional knowledge beyond the traditional lecture-style classroom? And what role do culinary skills play in this knowledge? Outside of the classroom you’ll find me hiking, biking, skiing and golfing. Oh, and occasionally indulging in slopeside cuisine. I’m excited to be a part of the food systems program at UVM and am looking forward to the next few years.
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 Candidate
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!
Teresa Mungazi, PhD Student
Teresa is a PhD student in the Food Systems Program at UVM, and is also a Gund Graduate Fellow. With experience in consumer and sustainability research, as well as promotion of Neglected and Underutilised Species (NUS) in Zimbabwe, Teresa understands the increasingly prominent role that the consumer plays in shaping food and farming systems. She is convinced that understanding consumer behaviour is a prerequisite for capturing consumer differences, understanding sustainability market segments and developing tailored interventions that motivate consumers to engage in more sustainable consumption. Her research involves investigating consumer acceptance and demand for plant-based proteins derived from hemp grain (Cannabis sativa L.).
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 1/2 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 working on national anti-racist informed anti-hunger coalition building and childhood food insecurity.
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/security in the Middle East. I’m interested in exploring the gender differentiated impacts of climate change on small-scale food producers and understanding how women farmers engage in alternatives practices to industrial agriculture while resisting prevailing, regional trends which favor monoculture and cash crops. I also hope to explore how women farmers engage in development and policy processes -- from that of the local level to transnational spaces such as the UN and the power dynamics therein. 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) 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 be a part of 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.
Nick Rose, PhD Candidate
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.
Shiva Soroushnia, PhD Student
Shiva is a Ph.D. student in Food Systems with a focus on Agritourism and Food Tourism. Before she start her graduate degree at the UVM University, she studied Environmental Economics for her master's studies and started her professional journey ten years ago by working with different NGOs on sustainable development projects. She also worked for well-known organizations like UNDP and TNA and they familiarized her with sustainable tourism as a means to improve people's livelihood and the environment.
Meanwhile, she researched in various fields, learned more about sustainable tourism, and continued learning in her field of interest by starting her second master’s degree in Tourism and Sustainability in Sweden. She also, studied a one-year course to become an ecotourism tour guide to experience sustainable tourism from a new perspective and she worked as a tour guide as well. During the past years, she participated in numerous projects voluntarily, mostly educational ones, and she received the "Good Citizen" award from the municipality of Tehran due to her impactful sustainable development activities. She is passionate about hiking, traveling, and exploring nature and various cultures and she loves art and yoga, and they are two important parts of her life.
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.
Leslie Spencer, PhD Student
I graduated from Tufts University in 2021 with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Food Systems and Nutrition. During my undergrad, I co-led the Tufts Food Rescue Collaborative - a group of students, staff, faculty, and community partners that works to rescue and redistribute surplus food from campus dining halls to sites in Greater Boston. Some of my previous academic work includes studying orchid bees in Costa Rican forests, predicting the pollinator-friendliness of coffee farming landscapes with spatial models, surveying native bee and wildflower communities in prairies with the Minnesota Agriculture for Pollinators Project, and planting urban pollinator gardens and holding outreach events with the Tufts Pollinator Initiative. I have also worked on research projects related to the population ecology of butterflies and native bees. As a Food Systems PhD student and Gund Graduate Fellow at UVM, I am excited to work at the intersection of agroecology and ecological landscape design/planning with Drs. Stephanie Hurley and Taylor Ricketts. In my spare time, you'll find me out in a garden, on my road bike, and working on becoming a better naturalist.
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.