This video shares our participatory action research approach with examples from Vermont and Mexico for the co-creation of knowledge through deep community partnerships.

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The UVM Institute for Agroecology (IFA) is seeding more equitable and sustainable food systems.

Our global food system is in crisis. Industrial agriculture is one of the leading causes of climate change and health inequity around the world. Agroecology offers the potential to regenerate the environment, cool the planet, and provide good, healthy food for all.

The UVM Institute for Agroecology (IFA) is seeding more equitable and sustainable food systems. IFA uses a systems approach that addresses the root causes of problems in the food system. We challenge the status quo by centering equity, participation and social transformation in our work. Through research, learning, action, and connecting across geographies, the IFA mobilizes knowledge to support agroecology research, practice and movements.

What Is Agroecology?
“Agroecology” is a way of understanding and designing food systems using social, ecological, and political principles to regenerate nature and create a more just society. It is rooted in indigenous practices and ancestral knowledge, which are combined with scientific knowledge to address the current food crisis. Agroecology is not only about changing farming techniques, but is also about transforming policy, science, cultures, and economies to bring about more just food systems.

This is a new chapter for UVM's commitment to agroecology, building on a decade of work by members of the Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative, a community of practice that will remain the beating heart of the new Institute.

Woman watering garden in Mali

Mission and Vision


Using participatory, holistic and equity-focused approaches to learning, research and engagement, the Institute for Agroecology will co-produce and mobilize knowledge to support just transformations in food systems.


We seek thriving food systems that confront inequities, foster human and ecological wellbeing and support dignified and meaningful livelihoods.

The Three Pillars of the Institute for Agroecology

Transforming Food Systems for Just Sustainability

Many sustainability approaches emphasize ‘technical fixes’ that tweak the existing food system without fundamentally changing its structure. In contrast, we focus on processes of social transformation as the primary conduit through which ecologically sound and socially just food systems will finally emerge. This requires systems level analysis and action that integrates ecological, economic, social and political dimensions, and where we attend to leverage points for change.

Participatory, Transdisciplinary and Action Research

The Institute will prioritize Participatory Action Research (PAR) approaches, which place the needs and agency of civil society partners (e.g., communities, smallholder farmers, organizations) at the heart of the research process and recognizes the value of diverse forms and sources of knowledge. UVM has deep experience with PAR, which is internationally recognized as a leading approach to knowledge production for agroecology.

Centering Equity

Today’s food systems are fraught with inequity and reflect deeply exploitative land and labor relations, gender and racial inequality and an extractive relationship between the global north and south. We recognize that if we are not actively working to change who has power and how we work together in reciprocal relationships, we will be complicit in reinforcing these patterns of oppression.

Action Strategies – Locally Rooted, Globally Connected

The IFA will support transition towards agroecology through five strategies:

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Undertake critical, transdisciplinary and participatory action research to uncover new ideas and strategies for redesigning food systems.

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Bring together collaborators within and outside of academia to cross-pollinate ideas and relationships across local, national, and international networks.

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Develop creative communication and advocacy strategies to influence policy, narratives, hearts, and minds.

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Prepare the next generation of agroecologists through undergraduate, graduate, community-based, and professional learning programs

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Support local economic, ecological, social, and cultural processes to grow agroecology on the ground in Vermont and around the globe.

The Institute will pursue these action strategies through processes of research, learning, and action, both locally and internationally. This reach across several geographies gives the Institute a special perspective, allowing processes in one part of the world to inform and be informed by processes in another.

Graphic illustrating the goals of the Agroecology Institute