W-3 Strengthening American Food System Resilience

The security of the American food supply—the ability to withstand shocks or stresses that could lead to shortfalls—is of genuine concern. Changes in the food system and the environment have created risks that are no longer hypothetical. The 27 articles in the Symposium on American Food Resilience (free article downloads at www.foodresilience.org) explore the vulnerability and resilience of food production and distribution and show how research and community action can bring about improvements.

The first half of the workshop will present key Symposium results with a focus on solutions and illustrations from case studies.

In the second half, participants will examine the resilience issue in terms of their own interests, using facilitated strategic planning to organize concrete ideas about “Where do we go from here?”


  • Gerry Marten, EcoTipping Points Project
  • Nurcan Atalan-Helicke, Environmental Studies-Skidmore College


  • Laura Lengnick, Lead Scientist, Cultivating Resilience, Asheville, NC
  • Rebecca Dunning, Center for Environmental Farming Systems, North Carolina State University
  • Michelle Miller, Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, University of Wisconsin
  • Jeremy Solin, Wisconsin ThinkWater Coordinator, University of Wisconsin – Extension

Gerry Marten is a systems ecologist and author of Human Ecology (http://gerrymarten.com/human-ecology/tableofcontents.html) with research experience extending from ecosystems to human-environment interaction, working in institutions focusing on environmental policy. His main project in recent years is EcoTipping Points (www.ecotippingpoints.org), featuring environmental success stories from around the world and lessons they offer for turning environmental decline to restoration. Recently, Gerry edited a collection of 27 articles on American Food Resilience about food system vulnerabilities to shocks and stresses that could disrupt food supply – and what can be done to improve food security. 808-551-3685, gerry@ecotippingpoints.org

Nurcan Atalan Helicke is a social scientist with professional experience in rural and participatory development in Turkey and research interests in conservation of agricultural biodiversity, and Islam and genetically engineered food. She has worked with small farmers in Turkey since 2001, and recently started working with farmer groups in northeast United States, on conserving farmer livelihoods and regional varieties. She has worked with Gerry Marten as the co-editor of the special issue on American Food Resilience. 518-580-8372, natalanh@skidmore.edu

Laura Lengnick is an award-winning soil scientist who has explored agricultural sustainability for more than 30 years as a researcher, policy-maker, educator, and farmer. Laura led the sustainable agriculture program at Warren Wilson College for more than a decade, and contributed to the 3rd National Climate Assessment as a lead author of the USDA report Climate Change and U.S. Agriculture: Effects and Adaptation. Laura left the college in 2014 to launch Cultivating Resilience, LLC, a firm offering ecosystem-based resilience planning services. Her new book, Resilient Agriculture: Cultivating Food Systems for a Changing Climate (New Society Publishers 2015), examines climate change, resilience and the future of food through the adaptation stories of 25 award-winning sustainable producers across the U.S. www.cultivatingresilience.com 828-423-6189 laura@cultivatingresilience.com

Michelle Miller is Associate Director at the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, the sustainable agriculture research center on campus. She is a practicing economic anthropologist engaged in participatory research with practitioners. She holds degrees in landscape architecture (emphasis: regional planning and restorative ecology), and on sustainable development (emphasis: agriculture and food). In the 1990s, Michelle worked for World Wildlife Fund on agricultural pollution prevention. For the last 15 years she has worked with fruit growers to assist them in their efforts to reduce pesticide risk and build regional markets. Current projects focus on agriculture of the middle and regional food economies, food freight transportation for cities, labor and land tenure, resiliency and climate change. 608-262-7135 mmmille6@wisc.edu

Jeremy Solin has worked in the environmental and sustainability education field for the past 15 years. Currently, he is the Wisconsin coordinator of ThinkWater, a national campaign supported by USDA to help people think and care deeply about water. His work in food systems includes co-founding Central Rivers Farmshed, an organization working to build a local food economy in central Wisconsin and conducting dissertation research that explored the motivations, activities and outcomes of those involved in community food systems in Wisconsin. Jeremy has a bachelor’s degree in water resources (UW-Stevens Point), a master’s degree in environmental education (University of Minnesota, Duluth) and a doctorate degree in sustainability education (Prescott College). jeremy.solin@ces.uwex.edu

Rebecca Dunning is a project manager and researcher at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) at North Carolina State University and specializes in the social and economic aspects of food systems and food supply chains. She leads CEFS Building Local Food Value Chains strategic working group which seeks to strengthen the economic viability of small and mid-scale food producers through research activities and engagement with business entities across the food value chain. She manages the North Carolina Growing Together project (NCGT, ncgrowingtogether.org), a 5-year (2013-2017) USDA-NIFA funded initiative to link small and mid-scale producers of produce, meat, dairy, and seafood into grocery and food service supply chains. rebecca_dunning@ncsu.edu


  • Gerry Marten, EcoTipping Points Project
  • Nurcan Atalan-Helicke, Environmental Studies-Skidmore College

Collaborators for workshop preparation:

  • Daniel Keppen, Farm Family Alliance
  • Patricia Dutcher,Nevada Department of Wildlife

Background Material:

The resilience of the American food system—its ability to withstand shocks or stresses that could lead to disruption of the food supply—is a matter of genuine concern. Americans take their food supply for granted, but changes in the food system and the environment (e.g., climate change and energy dependence) have created risks that are no longer hypothetical. It’s difficult to get a clear grip on this issue because the food system is so complex, and failure could take forms never seen before, but the stakes are high.

The 27 articles in the Journal of Environmental Studies and Science’s Symposium on American Food Resilience (www.foodresilience.org) explore the vulnerability and resilience of food production and distribution with regard to four central questions:

  • What are the main lines of vulnerability?
  • What are leverage points for reducing the risks and improving the capacity to deal with breakdowns if they occur?
  • What is already being done by government, civil society, and the private sector?
  • What can scientists, teachers, and other environmental and food-system professionals do through research, education, community action, or other means to make the food system more resilient?

The following articles provide useful background for the workshop:

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