Summer Research Minigrant Program

2021 - Carvallo, De Marsh, Fochesatto, Iuliano, Janes-Ugoretz, Rana, Reynolds, Winkler-Schor

With the help of campus groups, Ambar Carvallo planted tomatoes and hosted workshops centered around organic vegetable growing and environmental education.

Through interviews, Ben Iuliano, looked for possible gaps in research surrounding conservation biological control (CBC).

Jules Reynolds, along with the Brix Project of South-Central Wisconsin, interacted with farmers and food-business owners to increase local food system engagement.

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Through virtual discussions with stakeholders across Wisconsin, Nick De Marsh’s project aimed to connect BIPOC community members who work in food systems.

Sarah Janes-Ugoretz attempted to understand the experiences of Midwest food growers and owners in order to provide resources for novices who aspired to reach managerial positions in the future.

Sophia Winkler’s project involved an agroforestry program in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico to learn about ways in which community projects can improve food security and agro economic circumstances.

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Ana Fochesatto and CIAS’s Grasslands 2.0 team worked to identify barriers for farmers attempting managed grazing practices in the Midwest.

Prerna Rana worked with a community-based org in the Udaipur district of India to understand the evolution of rural agriculture and the role of women in the overall nutrition status of their communities.


Growing Synergies between Research and Outreach through Participatory Tomato Breeding at Eagle Heights
Student Researcher:
Ambar Carvallo, Agroecology
Faculty Advisor: Julie Dawson, Horticulture

Especially in regards to organic breeding, this summer, we aimed to increase dialogue on  tomato production. With the help of various student groups in Madison, a caterpillar tunnel was built at the COVID-19 Mutual Aid Garden of Eagle Heights, to not only grow tomatoes and other small vegetables, but also to act as a space for conversation. A total of three workshops covering food, growing, and environmental education were hosted at the garden.

Statewide Food Entrepreneur Ecosystem Connections
Student Researcher: Nicholas De Marsh, Urban Planning
Faculty Advisor: Alfonso Morales, Planning and Landscape Architecture

Through interviews and discussions with people in various cities of Wiscuson such as Milwaukee, Madison, and Green Bay, this project opened space for connection between people in the BIPOC food system. In particular, through this project, we were able to lend insight into the significance of community and networking activities. Ultimately, it was found that the best learning experiences occurred between those doing similar work.

Barriers and Opportunities to Grass-based Agriculture in the Upper Midwest
Student Researcher: Ana Fochesatto, Nelson Institute
Faculty Advisor: Adena Rissman, Forest and Wildlife Ecology

In collaboration with the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems’ Grasslands 2.0 initiative, this summer project identified factors inhibiting managed grazing in the Midwest and created an action plan around those issues. A three-part workshop was developed to address barriers and provide opportunities for farmers in the region to expand their managed grazing practices. 

Farmer Perceptions of the Landscape for Pest Control and Insect Conservation
Student Researcher: Ben Iuliano, Integrative Biology
Faculty Advisor: Claudio Gratton, Entomology

As a result of efconological, social, economic, and political limitations, conservation biological control  (CBC) approaches to farming can be difficult to implement. Finding ways to utilize such practices, however, are important due to their potential abilities for protecting insects that help plants as well as reduce pests. This project aimed to identify gaps in research regarding humans and their connection to the environment around them. We did this through interviews with farmers across Wisconsin.

Understanding the Role of Local Food Systems in Enhancing Nutritional Well-Being of Women and Children in Rural India
Student Researcher: Prerna Rana, Human Ecology
Faculty Advisor: Jennifer Gaddis, Ecology

Working closely with the community-based org, Hanuman Van Vikas Samiti, in Udaipur district of India, the objective of this project was to learn about agriculture’s importance in rural communities of the district, how practices have changed over time, and the role of women in regards to community agriculture and nutrition. Before this project began, groups bolstering female decision making in the local food system were created. However, this project focuses on the influence of women’s food cultivation practices in relation to the nutritional status of their families/communities as well as exploring the ways in which collective efforts may improve local agricultural conditions. The hope of this project is to contribute to the growing body of research highlighting the intersections between women’s role in agriculture, nutrition, and food systems.

The Potential and Politics of Community & Resilience in Local Food Systems 
Student Researcher: Jules Reynolds, Nelson Institute
Faculty Advisor: Michael Bell, Community & Environmental Sociology

The Brix Project of South-Central Wisconsin aims to develop local food system engagement through targeted education and outreach strategies. This summer project aimed to support the already existing “Local Food Community Hub” model. We conducted interviews with farmers and food system participants like Brix Cider and Black Krim Creative. In addition, an assessment of the Brix Project’s local sourcing took place.

Building Skills for Aspiring and Current Managers on Organic Vegetable Farms 
Student Researcher: Sarah Janes Ugoretz, Environmental Resources
Faculty Advisor: Michael Bell, Community & Environmental Sociology

Through conversations with organic vegetable producers, this project focused on the labor experiences of owners and growers in the Upper Midwest. Employees highlighted environment, communication, and conflict resolution as key factors towards positive work attitudes. Though they believed these were important characteristics for their superiors to possess, they did not believe that they themselves could obtain them without a formal education or training.

A training program was developed so that employees could build fundamental skills for managerial agricultural positions. We ultimately hoped to shape the existing “Becoming the Employer of Choice (BTEC) of UW-Extension into one that is focused more heavily on farming novices and beginners.

Wielding Conservation Psychology to Foster Persistence in Agroforestry Programs   
Student Researcher: Sophia Winkler-Schor, Nelson Institute 
Faculty Advisor: Lisa Naughton, Geography

Sembrando Vida or Sowing LIfe was founded in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico as a way to take action on the growing food insecurity, rural community-economic instability, and climate change problems of the region. The agroforestry program tries to achieve such goals by focusing on promoting restoration, traditional land-use practices and farmer collectives. By conducting interviews, participating in program activities, and collecting observational data, this project hoped to pinpoint the psychological reasons for long-term participation in Sembrando Vida. Even after incentive payments ended.