The Certificate of Graduate Study in Agroecology (CGSA) is a 5-course, 15-credit low-residential program developed and delivered by UVM’s Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative (ALC) in the Department of Plant and Soil Science (PSS).

Led by agroecologist and professor Ernesto Méndez (faculty in the PSS Department and the Environmental Program), the ALC brings a unique vision to agroecology as a transdisciplinary, participatory and action-oriented approach (for more information click here). This transdisciplinary framework is the heart of the CGSA pedagogy as it provides students and professionals the opportunity to explore agroecology from multiple perspectives. Other key people from the ALC who helped establish and are involved in the CGSA are: Vic Izzo (ALC Educational Coordinator and Lecturer in PSS) and Martha Caswell (ALC Research and Outreach Coordinator).

PSS 295/18th International Shortcourse participants collect soil compaction data at Bread and Butter farm.The Growing Field of Agroecology

Identifying the most viable and sustainable ways to manage our agrifood systems remains one of the most important challenges of our time. While there are no silver bullets, the field of agroecology is a promising, holistic approach that addresses the social, political and ecological challenges of agrifood systems.

The field of agroecology is gaining recognition and establishing influence in diverse academic, policy and advocacy spaces worldwide. In 2014, for the first time in its history, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) held an International Symposium on Agroecology for Food Security and Nutrition. La Via Campesina, a global peasant organization, has also endorsed agroecology as the way forward in creating a just and sustainable food system, and the peer-reviewed Journal of Sustainable Agriculture was recently renamed as Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems.

The adoption of agroecology as an approach by diverse groups of peasant farmers, scientists and international policy makers underscores the potential of the growing agroecology movement.

A Focus on All Dimensions of Agroecology

The development of the CGSA is a direct response to an increasing demand for deeper learning that focuses on all dimensions of agroecology, including its expressions as science, social movement and farming practice. The CGSA fully encompasses the ALC vision of agroecology through a curriculum that encourages students to integrate ecological, social and economic perspectives in developing practical (and active) solutions to contemporary problems in our agrifood system.

The fully prescribed coursework consists of one residential hybrid course, including online and face-to-face components, three foundational online classes and a final online synthesis seminar course. Students will be placed in yearly cohorts to build learning communities and expand the network among program participants. The certificate’s hybrid design means participants can live in their own food shed while learning lessons that can be applied anywhere.

Official Launch of Program

This past summer, the ALC officially launched the CGSA here at UVM. The first course offering for the program represented a hybrid course, which combined an online portion and participation in a stand-alone agroecology training course, the 18th International Agroecology Shortcourse.

The shortcourse brought together: 16 students taking the course for credit (PSS 295: International Agroecology); 12 non-credit participants; the ALC team; over a dozen invited instructors and speakers from the U.S., Mexico, Finland and Malawi; and 4 Vermont farm partners. Participants engaged in both the academic and hands-on aspects of agroecology, exchanging knowledge across a diversity of fields and experience. For a student perspective on the course, please see the blog post by Sam Bevet (a UVM Food Systems graduate student).

Want to Know More?

For more information, please contact Ernesto Méndez ( and visit the CGSA website.


Victor E. Mendez