Robin Marsh, Senior Researcher

Closed (1) Models of sustainable farming and adaptive responses to a global pandemic in different geographical contexts: California, Norway and China

Closed. This professor is continuing with Spring 2021 apprentices on this project; no new apprentices needed for Fall 2021.

Diverse sustainable agriculture and food systems models are emerging globally in response to growing demand for healthy and sustainably grown food. The objective of this project is to design a framework for ‘responsible innovation’ in the agriculture and food system sector, by investigating how it is practiced in different geographical contexts.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, farmers globally are challenged in unprecedented ways to adapt their production, marketing, food and labor safety practices to abide by strict health regulations. Under these circumstances, ‘responsible innovation’ takes on new urgency with important experiences for sharing across nations and for planning a more resilient global food system post COVID-19.

The proposed project, building on the 2019-2020 Peder Sather grant, will expand field research in Northern California, Western Norway and Southeastern China, adding additional field sites for greater diversity and farmer representation. This project will promote cross learning and on-going research collaboration through workshops in China and Berkeley, co-authored publications, and design of an enduring knowledge-sharing platform.

The research questions are:

RQ1 - Why do farmers in these distinct contexts adopt responsible innovation practices within a sustainable agriculture framework? What are the institutional and organizational drivers and barriers toward adoption of these practices?

RQ2 - What are the comparative strengths and weaknesses of these distinct models of government, non-governmental and consumer-driven support? What possibilities exist for a more effective blended or hybrid model?

RQ3 - In these urbanizing environments, what mechanisms are employed to increase urban awareness of the benefits associated with agriculture preservation, working landscapes and local food hubs?

RQ4 – How have farmers been impacted by the severe challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how have they adapted to this crisis? Which institutions are most effective at supporting farmers survive the crisis? What can we learn from each other in relation to building a more resilient and sustainable food system post-COVID-19 crisis?

RQ5 - How can this collaborative project lead to a sustained cross-case knowledge-sharing platform for the benefit of sustainable farmers and their support organizations?



The undergraduate student will: 1) assist with primary data collection from selected farmers and support organizations in California, 2) conduct supplementary background research on agriculture trends in California, Norway and China, and farmer and institutional responses to the COVID-19 pandemic; 3) assist in analyzing the quantitative and qualitative California data collected for this study, 4) assist with comparative data analysis from California, Norway and China (quant and qualitative), 5) assist with preparation of presentations on research methods and results, 6) assist with organization of meetings with the research team, and take and synthesize notes from meetings, and 7) contribute to research publications.



Qualifications: 1) major in agriculture, agricultural economics, environment, natural resources, or related field; 2) some experience with data analysis, good skills with Excel and preferably knowledge of Stata; 3) classes taken on agriculture and food systems; 4) experience writing research papers.

Weekly Hours: 6-8 hrs

Off-Campus Research Site: Virtual until campus opens up.

Related website: https://sathercenter.berkeley.edu/