Untapped Social Dynamics in Agroecology

Agroecology is an untapped resource in the fight for food sovereignty and justice in a world threatened by climate change and oppression on all fronts. According to the Northeast Farm Access (NEFA) Agroecology page: “Agroecology links ecosystems, native plants and beneficial insects, with social systems to sustain agricultural production, healthy environments, and viable food and farming communities.” This type of farming utilizes natural processes to limit the amount of inputs necessary for prosperous agriculture.

But that essence of the technique was hardly the impetus for the research idea conceived by Dr. Becca Berkey, Associate Director of the Northeastern Environmental Justice Research Collaborative, and Dr. Claudia Ford, professor at the Rhode Island School of Design and director of the Agroecology Program at NEFA. Our team was much more concerned with its potential in the social realm, and this search uncovered a wide variety of opportunities unthought of by the farm owners in the Northeast Farm Access.

In my role as researcher, I surveyed a wide variety of research papers constructing an annotated bibliography to assemble a literary consensus on the social possibilities within agroecology as a field. From this information, I then created a mind map, a table delineating the research categories and methods of each paper, and a list of general themes presented throughout the research. The five categories assembled were: Away from Agribusiness, Knowledge Sharing, Intersectional Examples, Definitions, and Applied Examples. Within these sections, more specific social issues tackled by agroecology began to emerge. Notably, agroecological systems are more resilient to climate change, place more value on indigenous or traditional knowledge, increase the viability of small-scale farming, ensure safer work environments, and bring a higher level of equality to a typically race- and gender-discriminatory field. All of these aspects were exhibited through case studies or other research methods found throughout the development of the annotated bibliography. It is evident from this preliminary study that the budding practice of agroecology has a significant element to add to the world of social justice in the field of agriculture.

The next phase of this research will primarily focus on the Northeast Farm Access. This network already has a scientific and economic training module for participating farmers. Our goal will be to create a partner social module that will add our research to the framework enforced in the network. It will be formulated specifically to the individual communities in which the farms are located to ensure the best community, owner, worker relationship possible. This process will consist of utilizing surveys, site visits, and personal interviews with farmers and their surrounding communities to create nuances in the social dimension of agroecology. This information will be coupled with the my meta-analysis of the literature to create a holistic module for the NEFA network.

I look forward to bringing this research forward at the Clinton Global Initiative University event in October in search of new partnership opportunities and connections!

Avo Gallo, Environmental Studies