About CDAE 295 TR2

Lectures or readings on contemporary issues in Community Development and Applied Economics. Enrollment may be more than once, up to twelve hours.


Spring break travel course; Instructor permission required; Program Fee: $1,648, less $450 deposit; Airfare is additional; Cross listed with CDAE 395 TR2

Section Description

This project-based course will work with University of Puerto Rico partners to identify vulnerabilities in Puerto Rico’s emerging local food systems, seek ways to mitigate such vulnerabilities, and work at the producer, institutional, community and policy levels to catalyze positive change. Puerto Rico imports 85% of its food, but has recently seen growth in local food production and new economic opportunities in local agriculture and fisheries. Farmland area grew more than 50% from 2012-2016, prompting NBC News to declare Puerto Rico as experiencing an “agricultural renaissance.” While most fish in the territory is imported, local fisheries support many small-scale fishers and cooperatives, with local fish commanding price premiums in restaurants. Local food growth is fueled by both policy and demand from consumers, institutions, and tourism. Civil society stakeholders support farm-to-institution sales, fisheries cooperatives, and new initiatives like urban gardens as pathways to food security and wealth creation in coastal communities. Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico’s emerging local food system. Official estimates suggest 80% of agricultural production value was destroyed, making Maria the costliest storm in the history of the territory’s farm sector. Fishery fleets and landing infrastructure were devastated, with estimated losses exceeding $20 million, concentrated among small-scale fishers. Despite this catastrophe for food production and distribution, there has been a resurgence in local food activity – a resurgence which has continued to provide important sources of local food and employment throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, and more recent severe storms including Hurricane Fiona in September 2022. This transdisciplinary research and community engagement course (including travel to Puerto Rico over spring break) is aimed at expanding economic opportunities in local food production and distribution in Puerto Rico, while mitigating food insecurity following disruptive events. Leveraging the experience of research and Extension faculty at UVM and UPR-Mayagüez and civil society partners, we focus on the recovery of crop and fisheries production and distribution systems in tourism-reliant coastal communities. Goals include designing methods, generating data, and developing tools that assist farmers, fishers, and institutions promoting food production in Puerto Rico, and help inform policy-makers seeking to enhance disaster preparedness and support more resilient food systems.

Section Expectation

This UVM service-learning course will emphasize working with public, private, producer and civil society organizations in Puerto Rico to understand food production and distribution vulnerabilities that follow disruptive events, and to identify and pursue ways to mitigate these challenges. Topics with local research and community partners in Puerto Rico for Spring 2023 include: (1) Sustainable agriculture / agroecology: interviews and surveys of organizations promoting agroecological approaches in Puerto Rico; (2) Fisheries / aquaculture: surveys of fishers, aquaculture producers, and market and restaurant actors in the fisheries value chain, looking at risk and recovery of the fisheries sector in the wake of hurricanes and other threats; and (3) Farm-to-institution food distribution networks: looking at how farm-to-school, farm-to-hospital, and farm-to-restaurant sales might increase food producer incomes, improve food quality, and support food system resilience. A transdisciplinary team of UVM and UPR-Mayagüez researchers, graduate students, Extension professionals, and community partners will carry out this exciting work, including partners in food-related non-governmental organizations.


You will be expected to prepare for and participate actively in class discussions, activities, short assignments, and your own team-based research while in Puerto Rico for the spring break and upon returning to UVM to write up and share final results. This course requires that you are an engaged and respectful member of a diverse, transdisciplinary team; you will be helping work on established research projects and also laying the foundation for new multi-year research and community engagement projects.

Course Dates



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Important Dates

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