About our program
The Agroecology Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is oriented toward three trends facing agricultural and food systems: the increasingly multifunctional landscape, changing meanings of scientific expertise, and the virtues of inclusivity. The increasingly multifunctional nature of much of the landscape means that agriculture is but one of several competing and intermingled land uses, and there are choices to be made as it adapts to this new environment. The roles of expert knowledge are in transition, as the complexity of socio-ecological systems becomes better understood. Finally, across many sectors of society appreciation is growing of the power of inclusive and participatory processes for identifying wise solutions to environmental problems.
Our program aims to train analysts and researchers in such a broadened vision of the possibilities of agriculture. Underexploited ecological and social opportunities hold promise for a more broadly beneficent agriculture. Agricultural strategies of the past century consistently substituted industrial inputs for biological processes. Environmental quality and social equity concerns are stimulating reconsideration of the best balance between the industrial and the biological, and development of new technologies and new forms of socioeconomic organization for striking that balance. The social opportunity lies in our emerging appreciation of the power of inclusive participatory processes to lead to wise and equitable environmental decisions. By coming to appreciate these contextual issues and through exposure to concepts of systems, ecology, and public process, graduates will shape the evolution of this new agriculture.
The Agroecology Program is supported by the interdisciplinary Agroecology cluster, three faculty members hired in 2002: Michael Bell in community and environmental sociology, Claudion Gratton in entomology, and Randall Jackson in agronomy.
The cluster concept is an innovation of the University of Wisconsin in which a critical mass of faculty are hired into an interdisciplinary area, but with tenure homes in traditional departments. To learn more about the cluster concept, see http://www.clusters.wisc.edu/.