Walking the Talk of Food Systems at a Small Land-Grant University: Overcoming Process Barriers to a Transdisciplinary Approach


  • Jane Kolodinsky University of Vermont
  • Naomi K. Fukagawa University of Vermont
  • Erin Roche University of Vermont
  • Cynthia Belliveau University of Vermont
  • Haylley Johnson University of Vermont




Community Partners, Food Systems, Higher Education, Higher Education Challenge Grant, Organizational Development, Transdisciplinary, Vermont


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.


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Author Biographies

Jane Kolodinsky, University of Vermont

Professor, Community Development and Applied Economics Department, University of Vermont.

Naomi K. Fukagawa, University of Vermont

Professor, College of Medicine, University of Vermont.

Erin Roche, University of Vermont

Research Specialist, Center for Rural Studies, University of Vermont.

Cynthia Belliveau, University of Vermont

Dean, Continuing Education, University of Vermont.

Haylley Johnson, University of Vermont

Food Systems Spire, University of Vermont



How to Cite

Kolodinsky, J., Fukagawa, N. K., Roche, E., Belliveau, C., & Johnson, H. (2012). Walking the Talk of Food Systems at a Small Land-Grant University: Overcoming Process Barriers to a Transdisciplinary Approach. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 2(3), 149–159. https://doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2012.023.015



Food Systems and Higher Education Call Papers