Community & Regional Development
I am a broadly-educated geographer whose teaching and research interests are centered on the relationship between society, agriculture, food, and the environment. This is a long-standing theme within the discipline of geography, expressed in the subfields of cultural-historical ecology, cultural ecology, and now political ecology. I have a regional focus on the Americas, specifically Costa Rica, the Midwest, and California, and also utilize multi-scalar approaches to understanding environmental, agricultural, and social phenomena and processes.
My research mostly focuses on the governance of agrifood systems. To date I have primarily used the framework of geographical political ecology to understand agriculture and food systems. I also use theoretical perspectives from geographical and sociological work in the political economy of agriculture. I am increasingly interested in the philosophical foundations of interdisciplinary learning aimed at enhancing sustainability, especially the philosophy of critical realism; the facilitation of competency development; and the praxis of critical pedagogy based in social constructivism. I remain dedicated to cartographic and visual explanations based on graphic design principles.
I am very interested in understanding larger-scale interventions aimed at making complex commodity chains with multiple links more sustainable, and in grassroots movements that are attempting to reshape the agrifood system. Much of my work focuses on extra-economic demands placed on farmers (e.g., for low levels of pesticide residues on food, environmental services, etc.), as well as practices and arrangements that are informed by values other than efficiency (such as environmental stewardship, social justice, etc.). I aim to understand how these demands and commitments are embodied and shaped by social processes and structures, including markets, institutions, and governance forms generally. At the local level, I investigate the ways in which communities and organizations — farmer networks, NGOs, and universities — and the local agricultural context — farm size and resources, marketing relationships, and the biophysical environment — constrain and/or enable farmers' responses to changing social contexts and demands, and farmers' attempts at reshaping the food system. I am also interested in empirically understanding the effects of these changes on production practices, rural livelihoods and communities, and sustainability at the local level.
Ph.D., Geography. University of Wisconsin, Madison, 2006.
M.S., Geography. University of Wisconsin, Madison, 2001.
B.A., Geography. University of California, Berkeley, 1999.