Research Reports

Experiential Learning

Learning From the Ground Up: Experiential Learning in Food and Agriculture Systems Education at the University of California

February 2016

Kate Kaplan (former BFI/Global Food Initiative student fellow), Damian Parr (UC Santa Cruz), Jennifer Sowerwine (UC Cooperative Extension and UC Berkeley), Lori Ann Thrupp (BFI Executive Director), Mark Van Horn (UC Davis)

A growing number of educators, students, and university administrators recognize that experiential learning (EL) is an important element of higher education and is particularly valuable to agriculture and food systems-related education. EL makes valuable contributions to students’ overall satisfaction in their learning process, their academic achievements, subsequent successful careers, professional or leadership skills development, and personal awareness and self-confidence. Yet, many educators, administrators, and even students are not aware of such EL programs and their great value as a part of university or college education. This report provides information about existing EL opportunities in agriculture and food systems at the University of California. It is based on a general assessment of many EL programs and courses on the UC campuses, an evaluation of case study examples illustrating diverse programs, and insights shared by field leaders in the UC system. It identifies lessons learned about effective practices, successes and challenges, and implications for future programs. The examples serve as illustrations of successful EL opportunities reflecting a diversity of topics and program types.

Download the full report here.

Local Food and Municipal Policy

A Brief Snapshot of the Long Beach Local Food Movement

July 2015

Michelle Azurin

Berkeley Food Institute 2015 Community Engagement Fellow Michelle spent the summer working with Long Beach Fresh, an organization that supports local projects, programs, and workgroups looking to strengthen the Long Beach food economy and infrastructure. She primarily assisted with Long Beach Fresh’s “food stories” project by working with a videographer and conducting interviews with local food movement leaders to showcase their work and better understand their needs. She also conducted outreach with various community groups, represented Long Beach Fresh at City Council to support city-wide urban agriculture initiatives, and assisted with visits to council member offices to promote good food policies and food access in Long Beach. This research report reflects a summary of Michelle’s work with Long Beach Fresh.

Download the full report here.

Mobile Food Vending

Food Bikes and the Mobile Food Revolution

October 2015

John Romankiewicz

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Mobile food is becoming an increasingly popular part of the food economy. This research project looked at the potential for food bikes to serve as a low-capital, low-footprint alternative to food trucks in order to enable entrepreneurs to launch or expand their businesses. The following report includes deliverables from a summer research project on food bikes funded by a 2015 Community Engagement Fellowship award from the Berkeley Food Institute and in affiliation with the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC).

Download the full research report here.

On-Campus Restaurants at UC Berkeley

The State of UC Berkeley On-Campus Restaurants

September 2015

On-campus restaurants serve a diverse community of students, faculty, staff and the general public. Therefore, they play an important public-facing role in representing Berkeley’s attitudes towards sustainable, healthy, and affordable food. Through this fact sheet, the Berkeley Food Institute intends to provide the Berkeley community with well-researched information about the state of UC Berkeley’s on-campus food. This fact sheet covers what kinds of food campus restaurants offer, where these foods come from, relevant labor practices, and the governance structures that direct these various restaurant locations.

Download the full research report here.

Organic Agriculture

Growing Organic, State by State


Laura Driscoll and Nina F. Ichikawa

Growing Organic, State by State: A Review of State-Level Support for Organic Agriculture is a 2017 report released by the Berkeley Food Institute that seeks to highlight the opportunities and challenges facing state departments of agriculture as they respond to market and farmer demand to increase organic acreage.

Download the executive summary and full research report here.

Soil Health

Factors Influencing Farmer Adoption of Soil Health Practices in the United States: A Narrative Review

February 2016

Liz Carlisle

Soil health practices – such as cover cropping, crop rotation, and conservation tillage – provide synergistic environmental and economic benefits, both on and beyond the farms that utilize them. Given these benefits, researchers are puzzled by the persistent adoption gap for these practices. This narrative review synthesizes the insights of the soil health practices adoption literature, with a focus on US commodity agriculture. While farms, farmers, and farm communities are too heterogeneous to represent with a single model, this review finds five emergent themes: (1) differences in perspective along the adoption continuum, (2) interaction among soil health practices, (3) qualitatively different pathways to incremental and transformative change, (4) non-economic farmer motives, and (5) the key role of larger farm and food system context. This study finds rational actor models inadequate to explain farmer decision-making, suggesting that researchers would do well to utilize interpretive frames that elucidate interactions among groups of people and take account of multiple forms of capital. Reviewing recommendations for increasing the adoption of soil health practices, this study finds that a complementary approach—combining education, research, policy, measures to overcome equipment barriers, and efforts to address farm and food system context—holds the most promise.

Download the full report here.

Urban Agriculture

An Agroecological Survey of Urban Farms in the Eastern Bay Area to Explore Their Potential to Enhance Food Security

February 2014

Principal Investigators: Miguel Altieri and Celine Pallud (Environmental Science, Policy, and Management)
Collaborators: Eric Holt-Gimenez (Food First) and several East Bay community groups
Report by: Josh Arnold (PhD Student, Environmental Science, Policy, and Management)

This collaborative, community-based, participatory project will assess: 1) The main agronomic problems (soils, pests, diseases, etc.) limiting productivity affecting urban agriculture in the East Bay Area; 2) Cultural practices currently used by urban farmers and their effectiveness to overcome identified limiting factors; and 3) Actual yields reached in various urban farms subjected to varied management practices, soil management practices, and exhibiting different spatial and temporal combinations of crops species and varieties. This information will provide a baseline that can be used to plan a series of on-farm research trials to explore urban agriculture best practices and management designs to optimize yields. This project was funded through the BFI Seed Grant Program.

Download the full research report here.

Wages and Benefits for Food Workers

Working Below the Line

December 2015

Principal Investigators: Laurel Fletcher (Law), Saru Jayaraman (Food Labor Research Center), and Allison Davenport (Law)
Collaborators: Restaurant Opportunities Centers United and Food Chain Workers Alliance

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes that everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration to ensure an existence worthy of human dignity. However, for many low-wage tipped workers in the U.S. restaurant industry these standards are out of reach. Rooted in exploitation of workers, the custom of tipping has evolved since its origins in the late nineteenth century. It has become codified in a two-tiered minimum wage system that denies tipped restaurant workers fair wages and basic labor protections. This report sheds light on the ways in which federal and state laws maintain this wage structure and enable working conditions in the restaurant industry that violate fundamental human rights protections for tipped workers, particularly women and people of color. This human rights analysis points to significant human rights deprivations and the need for new laws and policies. This project was funded through the BFI Seed Grant Program.

Download the full report here.