Agroecology: The ecology of food systems

C. Francis, G. Lieblein, S. Gliessman, T. A. Breland, N. Creamer, R. Harwood, L. Salomonsson, J. Helenius, D. Rickerl, R. Salvador, M. Wiedenhoeft, S. Simmons, P. Allen, M. Altieri, C. Flora, R. Poincelot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

515 Scopus citations


We present a compelling rationale for defining agroecology as the ecology of food systems. Our purpose is to provide a framework that will guide research, education, and action in the multiple and interacting facets of an increasingly complex global agriculture and food system. To accomplish such goals, it is essential to build bridges and connections among and beyond our disciplines in production agriculture, as well as beyond the farm gate into the rural landscape and community. Fields of sociology, anthropology, environmental sciences, ethics, and economics are crucial to the mix. They provide additional vantage points from which we can view the food system anew, as well as insights on how to establish valuation criteria beyond neoclassical economics. Examples from Mexico, California, and the Nordic Region are used to illustrate the successful implementation of this educational strategy in universities. Design of individual farms using principles of ecology is expanded to the levels of landscape, community, and bioregion, with emphasis on uniqueness of place and the people and other species that inhabit that place. We conclude that defining agroecology as the ecology of food systems will foster the development of broader interdisciplinary research teams and attractive systems-based courses for tomorrow's best students. In contrast to the narrow focus on crop-soil interactions, this definition will help us raise higher-level research questions whose solutions will advance the development of a sustainable agriculture and food system. [Article copies available for a fee from The Haworth Document Delivery Service: 1-800-HAWORTH. E-mail address: <docdeliveryη> Website: <>

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-118
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Sustainable Agriculture
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Action learning
  • Agricultural systems
  • Holistic research
  • Interdisciplinary studies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Development
  • Agronomy and Crop Science


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