I am a professor and broadly-educated geographer whose teaching and research interests focus 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 utilize multi-scalar approaches to understanding environmental, agricultural, and social phenomena and processes.
I am particularly interested in the governance of agrifood systems toward greater sustainability. To date I have primarily used the framework of geographical political ecology and theoretical perspectives from geographical and sociological work in the political economy of agriculture. I am also 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. In my work I enjoy designing cartographic and visual explanations based on graphic design principles.
My specific topical interests include:
•the globalization and localization of fresh produce,
•alternative food networks, with a special focus on community supported agriculture (CSA),
•pesticides and agrochemical use,
•governance in agrifood commodity chains.
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.