Home Volume 2, Issue 3 Walking the Talk of Food Systems at a Small Land-Grant University: Overcoming Process Barriers to a Transdisciplinary Approach


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Walking the Talk of Food Systems at a Small Land-Grant University:

Overcoming Process Barriers to a Transdisciplinary Approach

by Jane Kolodinskya,*, Naomi K. Fukagawab, Erin Rochec, Cynthia Belliveaud, and Haylley Johnsone

http://dx.doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2012.023.015, pp. 149–159



In this paper we present the evolution of a transdisciplinary food systems (FS) initiative at a small land-grant university. The first indication of the relevance of food systems study at this university came from faculty and students, which then progressed to the establishment of structural changes and financial support by the administration. This commentary demonstrates that successfully incorporating transdisciplinary academic support, research, and educational programs is not an easy endeavor and requires multilevel buy-in from all strata within the organization. This approach also takes substantial time and resource commitment from faculty, staff, students, administration, and the community. If approached in a holistic, transdisciplinary manner, FS initiatives will link what universities do best with improvement in the FS continuum from food production to public health. As with most new initiatives, there are both barriers and triggers to success, and work is ongoing. Using the lens of the University of Vermont (UVM), this paper poses questions and provides best practice advice to others who seek collaboration across disciplines that goes beyond inter- or multidisciplinarity collaboration.


Keywords: community partners, food systems, higher education, Higher Education Challenge Grant, organizational development, transdisciplinary, Vermont



All authors are associated with the University of Vermont Food Systems Transdisciplinary Initiative.

a,* Corresponding author: Jane Kolodinsky, Community Development and Applied Economics, University of Vermont, Central Campus, Burlington, VT 05405 USA; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

b Naomi K Fukagawa, College of Medicine, University of Vermont

c Erin Roche, Center for Rural Studies, University of Vermont

d Cynthia Belliveau, Continuing Education, University of Vermont

e Haylley Johnson, Food Systems Spire, University of Vermont.



Banner photos include a Cape Cod cranberry bog; a cranberry “screen house” used to grade fresh cranberries; farmland near Lake Placid, NY, in the Adirondack Mountains; Montmorency cherry trees on the Mission Peninsula of northern Michigan; the historic Round Barn in the South Mountain Apple Belt of Adams County, Pennsylvania; the “Sea of Grapes” district of the Lake Erie Concord Grape Belt, near Erie, Penn; a field of cabbages near Shortsville, NY, home to one of the world’s largest sauerkraut factories. All photos copyright by Duncan Hilchey.


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