The State of Sustainable Agriculture and Agroecology Research and Impacts

A Survey of U.S. Scientists




Agroecosystem, Policy Engagement, Research Funding, Systems Science, Media, Outreach


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.

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Author Biographies

Marcia DeLonge, Union of Concerned Scientists

Food & Environ­ment Program

Tali Robbins, Union of Concerned Scientists

Food & Environ­ment Program.

Robbins is now at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University.

Andrea D. Basche, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Department of Agronomy and Horticulture

Lindsey Haynes-Maslow, North Carolina State University

Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences



How to Cite

DeLonge, M., Robbins, T., Basche, A., & Haynes-Maslow, L. (2020). The State of Sustainable Agriculture and Agroecology Research and Impacts: A Survey of U.S. Scientists. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 9(2), 159–184.