Quarterly Lecture Series

The Center's quarterly lecture series offers informative talks on revolving themes from experts in a variety of fields. All are welcome at these free public events.

Past Lectures

The evolution of agroecology as a practice, a research discipline, and a social movement

October 7, 2020, 1:30 - 2:45pm, (PST) / 4:30 - 5:45pm (EST)

What does agroecology mean? How is it practiced? Who are the holders / creators of agroecological knowledge? What are the exciting questions or recent advances in agroecology research?

A panel of experts will give five-minute "lightning talks" on their interpretation of the evolution of agroecology as a practice, research discipline, and social movement. Q&A session to follow.


  • Ana Elisa Pérez-Quintero (La Colmena Cimmarona, Vieques, Puerto Rico)
  • Charles Francis (University of Nebraska)
  • Julie Grossman (University of Minnesota)
  • Ernesto Mendez (University of Vermont)
  • Aidee Guzman (UC Berkeley)
  • John Vandermeer (University of Michigan)


  • Ana Elisa Perez QuinteroAna Elisa Perez Quintero is co-director of La Colmena Cimarrona and manager of her La Semillera farm project in Vieques, Puerto Rico. She is a grower, Caribbean, lover of bees, mountains, horses, a good plate of food and healing plants. She works for food sovereignty by producing food that heals and  dignifies. Ana Elisa is “con el corazón abajo y a la izquierda en lucha siempre” (with her heart below and to the left, she always continues in the struggle). She was a 2010 recipient of the Brower Youth Award for Environmental Leadership.
  • Charles Francis
    Charles Francis is an agronomist, plant breeder, and agroecologist who grew up in the Central Valley of California with high-tech agriculture. He has degrees from UC Davis (BS, 1961) and Cornell University (MS, 1967 and PhD, 1970). He has lived and worked with small farmers and agroecosystems research in the Philippines and Colombia, and was staff scientist with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture for seven years. He was director of the MIAC/Morocco Dryland Agriculture Program from 1982-1984, and helped Bob Rodale start their international program in 1984. Chuck has been a researcher and teacher at University of Nebraska, Lincoln since 1977, with courses in agroecology, organic farming and food systems, land use in the Midwest, and land grabs in the Global South. In 2000 he helped organize the Agroecology: Food and Farming Systems MSc curriculum at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, which has mentored similar programs that have started in India, Sweden, France, Italy, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Chile. He has honorary degrees from agricultural universities in Finland and Sweden.
  • Julie GrossmanJulie Grossman is passionate about how science can help us better understand plant-soil interactions in agroecological systems, and how we can best co-create that knowledge together with farmers, students and society. She received her graduate training at the University of Minnesota in agronomy and plant genetics with an emphasis in agroecology in spring 2003. She was an National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University, and then a faculty member at North Carolina State University in the Department of Soil Science, prior to joining the Department of Horticultural Science at the University of Minnesota in 2014. Julie’s research explores management of plant-soil-microbe relationships to enhance soil fertility in organic systems, especially the process of legume biological nitrogen fixation. A central thread that connects much of her work is the examination of legume cover crops and associated soil microbes to help maintain landscape diversity, improve soil health, and tighten nutrient cycling. Julie has a strong interest in sustainable agriculture education and is former Chair of the Sustainable Agriculture Education Association. At UMN, she is the Organic Program coordinator for the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences, an affiliated faculty member of the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change, and a Fellow of the Institute on the Environment (IonE). In her free time she loves to be outside, hiking or exploring nature with her three children.
  • Ernesto MéndezErnesto Méndez is professor of Agroecology and Environmental Studies at the University of Vermont’s Environmental Program and Department of Plant and Soil Science, where he leads the Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative (ALC). His research and teaching focus on agroecology, agrifood systems, participatory action research (PAR), and transdisciplinary research approaches. He has almost 20 years of experience doing research and development work with smallholder farmers in Latin America, with an emphasis on coffee farmer cooperatives. He is also working with a team of faculty and extensionists to address agricultural resilience in the face of climate change in the northeast U.S. He has authored or co-authored over 40 peer-reviewed articles and chapters, as well as edited three books. Most recently, he was the lead editor of Agroecology: a transdisciplinary, participatory and action-oriented approach, published in 2016, which explores how the field of agroecology can contribute to attain more ecologically sound and socially just agrifood systems. Ernesto was born and raised in El Salvador and has worked extensively in Latin America, California and Spain.
  • Aidee GuzmanAidee Guzman is a PhD candidate in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at UC Berkeley. Aidee was born and raised in a small, rural town in the Central Valley of California. Her parents were migrant farm workers who left Mexico where they farmed. Today, many of members of her family have also left their farms in Mexico and work across all agricultural sectors in the U.S.—from the apple fields of Washington to meat-packing factories in Nebraska, to tomato canning factories in California, to truck drivers of agricultural commodities across the West. Having deep family roots in agriculture, she is compelled to understand the socio-ecological linkages of diversifying farming systems to support agroecology and foster more just food systems. She is especially passionate about working with small-scale farmers of color, and this took her back where she grew up—the Central Valley—for her dissertation research. Specifically, she’s exploring how on-farm diversification practices impact soil health (i.e. soil microbial communities) and its links to other ecological processes (i.e. pollination) on agroecosystems. She’s also investigating how the farmers she’s working with have historically dealt with ecological stressors in the region.
  • John VandermeerJohn Vandermeer is Asa Gray Distinguished University Professor and Arthur R. Thurnau Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and a professor in the Program in the Environment at the University of Michigan. He teaches three courses, food, energy and environmental justice; the ecology of agroecosystems; and complex systems in ecology. His research focuses on the coffee agroecosystem for which he delves into recent advances in complex systems in attempting to understand the biological, social, and political aspects of this important ecosystem. He is author or editor of 16 books and over 250 scientific publications. He is also a political activist, a founding member of the New World Agriculture and Ecology group, a current member of the revived organization “Science for the People,” and a founding member of the University of Michigan “Sustainable Food System Initiative.”