Our Approach

At an ox-pulling contest in Alberta, Canada there were two well matched animals. In the end they pulled nearly the same weight- one a bit over 8,000 pounds and the other slightly under. The teamsters (also known as ox-drivers) decided to yoke the animals together to see what they might pull. The crowd placed bets, with most people believing the oxen would pull ~16,000 pounds. They were mistaken- the oxen pulled 26,000 pounds as the teamwork gave way to the sum being more than the parts.
— A story told at the 2017 Indiana Small Farm Conference

Lab Members

Angela Babb: Angela is a research assistant whose work with the Lab focuses on food justice and the relations between food-insecure households and community food localization schemes. Angela is a PhD Candidate in the Geography Department at IUB. Her research interests include political economy of agriculture, political ecology of the body, nutrition assistance programs, and most particularly, the Thrifty Food Plan.

Sage Danch: Sage is Masters student within the Department of Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Studies. He obtained his BA from UC Berkeley studying sustainable agriculture and American food systems from social/theoretical and historical perspectives. In 2016, he began working towards his MS in Outdoor Recreation with a concentration in Natural Resource and Wildlife Management. He is currently assisting Dr. James Farmer, Dr. Julia Valliant, and Dr. Analena Bruce with research projects on farmland transfer and high tunnel production. When not engaged with issues of sustainability and land management, Sage can be found training for and planning towards his ongoing life goal to climb Yosemite’s El Capitan.

Analena Bruce: Ph.D, Post-doctoral Fellow - Dr. Bruce recently joined the lab having graduated from Rutgers University with a focus on rural sociology. Sh defended her dissertation, "Labor of Love: Inequality and Participation in Alternative Agriculture," this past spring. Her research interests include: Agri-food Systems, Environmental Sociology, Social Movements, Inequality, Qualitative Comparative Methods, Sociology of Science.

Yuan (Daniel) Cheng: is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in Public Affairs at the Indiana University School of Public & Environmental Affairs. Daniel's work with the Lab focuses on municipal parks and recreation departments as they react and prepare for climate change. His research interest is broadly in nonprofit management, urban sustainability, cross-sectoral collaboration,  and mixed methods. Daniel holds a master’s degree in Philanthropic Studies from the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from Zhejiang University, China.


Julia DeBruicker Valliant: Ph.D, Post-doctoral Fellow, Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis. Julia researches relationships between agricultural policy and public health, learning firsthand from farmers and graziers.  She is currently leading a USDA SARE funded study on farmland transfer, out-of-family. PhD in Sociobehavioral Health (2012), MHS in International Health (2000), Johns Hopkins University.  BA in Environmental Science and History (1997), University of Virginia.


Eric Knackmuhs: Ph.D student, Environmental Behavior - Graduate Research Assistant and Project Manager. His research interests include interpretation, visitor behavior, and the communication of controversial natural resource management issues.

Jacob Mills: Jacob is currently working towards a B.S. in Environmental Management. His research focuses on community food systems and resilience. Currently, he is working on our national census of community orchards and leading his own independent project on refugee and migrant urban farms.

Sara Minard: Sara is a PhD candidate in Anthropology's Food Studies at IUB. She is collaborating with the Farmer Lab on a Community Health Engagement Program grant that seeks to evaluate and understand the ties between local food production and low-income community access to those foods. Her own work has sought to understand the drivers and environmental consequences of food waste in the United States. In her spare time she enjoys cook, foraging, and replacing the grass in her yard with edibles and perennials.


Kostas Stavrianakis: I am a first year PhD student in Leisure Behavior working at the Human Dimensions Lab. My main research interest is the role of the family as a unit in developing eco literacy, in-between the family members, by using environmental education and technology in recreation areas. I am currently looking at the use of community gardens in family sustainability and eco-literacy.

Collaborating Scientists

Jake Brenner, Environmental Studies and Sciences- Ithaca College

Charles Chancellor, Natural Areas Tourism-  Clemson University

Stephanie Dickinson, Epidemiology & Biostatistics- Indiana University

Michael Drescher, School of Planning- University of Waterloo

Alan Ewert, Dept. of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Studies- Indiana University

Burney Fischer, School of Public and Environmental Affairs- Indiana University

Dan Knudsen, Geography- Indiana University

Zhao Ma, Forestry- Purdue University

Liz Maynard, Horticulture- Purdue University

Vicky Meretsky, School of Public and Environmental Affairs- Indiana University

Karo Omodior, Dept. of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Studies- Indiana University

Heather Reynolds, Biology- Indiana University

Jennifer Meta Robinson, Anthropology- Indiana University

Tatyana Ruseva, Political Science- Appalachian State University

Steve Wolter, Eppley Institute for Parks and Public Lands, Indiana University

Former Lab Members

Thanks to former lab members: Megan Betz, Brian Forist, Bridget Masur, Jay Powell, Bailey Swan, Jay Whitacre, and Natalie Woodcock