Agronomy and Horticulture Department


Date of this Version



Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, Volume 9, Issue 2 / Winter 2019–2020, pp 159-184


(c) the authors


A growing body of research suggests that although sustainable agriculture, particularly agroecology, can address challenges such as those related to climate change, ecosystem services, food insecurity, and farmer livelihoods, the transition to such systems remains limited. To gain insight into the state of U.S. sustainable agriculture and agroecology, we developed a 28-question mixed-method survey that was administered to scientists in these fields. Respondents (N=168) represented diverse locations, institutions, and career stages. They offered varied definitions of sustainable agriculture, with 40% considering economic and social well-being to be core components. Respondents identified the amount and duration of public research funding as important obstacles to conducting research on sustainable agriculture (85% and 61%, respectively). Further, most expressed challenges in communicating findings beyond academia, including to the media and policymakers, potentially limiting the impacts of such research. However, respondents expressed satisfaction in several areas, including relationships with community members (81%) and local producers (81%), and interest from students (80%) and research communities (73%), suggesting positive momentum in this field. Earlier versus later career scientists rated research on “human dimensions” as more important, expressed greater concerns over career stability, and were less satisfied with opportunities for policy engagement. Results imply that greater public investments, particularly fostering human dimensions, could support a transition to agroecology and its associated benefits.