Urban Agriculture and Food Systems Graduate Student Researcher

Berkeley Food Institute Urban Agriculture and Food Systems Graduate Student Researcher

Appointment: 50%FTE, 20 hours per week for one semester, spring 2020.

Compensation: For GSR Step V ($27.36 hourly; $4,760 monthly)

Application Deadline: October 24, 2019, 5PM Pacific Time

Applicants must be matriculated graduate students at UC Berkeley. To apply, submit the following items by email as a single pdf to jsowerwi@berkeley.edu with the subject line “Urban Agriculture and Food Systems Policy GSR” 

  1. Cover letter
  2. Résumé
  3. Contact information for 2 professional and/or academic references

About the Berkeley Food Institute:

The Berkeley Food Institute (BFI) at the University of California, Berkeley seeks to transform food systems to expand access to healthy, affordable food and promote sustainable and equitable food production. We empower new leaders with capacities to cultivate diverse, just, resilient, and healthy food systems. We pursue our mission through interdisciplinary programs in education, research, policy, communications, and community engagement. 

About the Position:

This position will support the urban agriculture and urban food access policy research component of the Sustainable Urban Farming project and associated extension/outreach materials. This objective seeks to better understand policy barriers and solutions to urban agriculture viability and access to urban produced foods.  We are examining where and how urban produced foods are being distributed, who they are reaching, and what are the barriers and opportunities for improving urban-produced food distribution methods to reach three goals: 1) urban farm profitability, 2) reduction of urban farm food waste, and 3) reduction of urban food insecurity. We aim to identify both strengths/benefits of the various policies and strategies, and risks or gaps in efficiency and access, as well as opportunities for improvement. In this last year of research, we will focus on urban agriculture and urban food access policies, exploring the following question: what state and local policy and planning practices are most effective in supporting urban agriculture and food access/distribution efforts?

The position reports to Jennifer Sowerwine, Asst. Cooperative Extension Specialist in Metropolitan Agriculture and Food Systems, ESPM, and Charisma Acey, Asst. Professor of City and Regional Planning, College of Environmental Design.


The research assistant will carry out the following activities: (1) desk research, including literature review, review of prior student project work on urban agriculture and regional mapping/planning in the Bay Area, (2) fieldwork, including interviews and focus groups with city and county officials, community-based organizations and local officials, and (3) analyzing and drafting peer-reviewed publications, policy briefs, and blogs. Specific activities may include:

  1. Policy analysis: Evaluate local and national policies and planning practices that support urban agricultural production and distribution:

    • Identify and evaluate the effectiveness of current California state, county and city laws that aim to support urban agriculture, with a particular focus on East Bay policies and planning practices, and identify successes and ongoing challenges. Examples might include recycling food waste into compost, rezoning, reduced permitting fees, subsidies for inputs (water), innovative land access arrangements (public-private partnerships, land trusts), tax incentives or penalties
    • Conduct semi-structured interviews with select local government officials to learn more about the innovative policies and how they were developed and adopted.
    • Compile list of land tenure arrangements (trusts, private, public lands) in the East Bay that allow food production;  land use zoning that supports urban ag, e.g. established food districts, areas with designated use categories, areas that allow special uses, variance; Identify any cities in the East Bay adopting California’s Urban Agriculture Incentives Zone act (2013/2017) and evaluate successes and ongoing challenges; catalog and assess the work of California and particularly East Bay food policy councils on urban agriculture and food access/food security.
    • Compare planning practice and city policies in the East Bay with state and national best practices and model city policies supporting urban agriculture and reduced food insecurity.
    • Evaluate policy barriers that may inhibit the exchange or sourcing of urban produced foods such as transportation policy, food distribution, food safety, etc.
    • Identify opportunities for influencing planning and policy in the East Bay (e.g. through regional and local planning processes, initiatives,  federal, state and local funding streams; eg. SB1000, Transformative Climate Communities).
  2. Coordination:
    • Review project documents, data, and findings to date, including survey data, and transcripts of interviews and focus groups to summarize stakeholder policy recommendations.
    • Schedule and conduct interviews with key stakeholders, transcribe and summarize key themes in preparation for publication.
    • Assist with scheduling and running meetings and focus groups with urban farmers and community groups.
    • Meet regularly with project co-leads.
    • Perform additional tasks as required for the research project

3. Extension:

    • In partnership with community stakeholders, including low-income and culturally diverse communities and the community organizations/leaders that serve them, technology and marketing innovators, food producers, as well as research collaborators, educators and extension specialists, ensure project objectives support and/or align with existing efforts by stakeholders to improve local and regional food security,  develop outreach materials to disseminate results of research.
    • Assist with development of fact sheets, policy briefs, and circulation of results on urban ag listserves as well as present at meetings/field days, East Bay Food policy councils, etc.
    • Write blogs for Urban Ag website and other venues.
    • Organize webinar on opportunities for leveraging state policy and funding streams to support urban agriculture and sustainable/equitable food systems in East Bay.

Required Qualifications:

  • Outstanding oral and written communication skills, particularly in regards to communications across diverse groups
  • Ability to work collaboratively as part of a team
  • Ability to work independently and to foresee, identify, and recommend solutions in the position’s areas of responsibility
  • Strong attention to detail
  • Comfort with creativity, innovation, and hard work
  • Professionalism, courtesy, punctuality, and good humor
  • Interest and experience in urban ag and food policy, food access, food justice and/or conducting field work with community groups
  • Interest and experience in public service and social equity, as core tenets of the UC Berkeley experience and the Berkeley Food Institute mission

Preferred Qualifications

  • Experience and relationships with urban farms and food justice actors in the East Bay

Equal Employment Opportunity:

The University of California is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or protected veteran status. For more information about your rights as an applicant, see: http://www.eeoc.gov/employers/upload/poster_screen_reader_optimized.pdf 

For the complete University of California nondiscrimination and affirmative action policy, see: