Michelle Miller

Michelle, part of the first Donella Meadows Fellows cohort, is at the UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, the campus sustainable agriculture research center where she directs programs. She is a practicing economic anthropologist engaged in participatory action research with farmers and others who create our food system. She has worked at the Center since 1997. Michelle serves on the National Academy of Sciences Standing Committee on Agriculture and Food Transportation, participates in the USDA working group NC1198 on Agriculture of the Middle, works with the Agroecology Research-Action Collective, and serves on the board of the Inter-Institutional Network for Food, Agriculture, and Sustainability.

Michelle works with farmers, their organizations and communities to redesign food systems. Current research projects focus on food sovereignty, labor and land tenure, agriculture of the middle and regional food economies, food freight logistics, oversupply and supply management policy, perennial food crops, resiliency and climate change. Michelle is always interested in the power dynamics between cities and their rural regions.  She explores how to communicate systems concepts to diverse audiences who are grappling with systems transformation to make the food system just and ensure that it operates within natural boundaries. One way has been to talk about emergence, specifically how human social organization emerges from environmental systems, and how economics and more importantly, other measures of human well-being, emerge from social systems. Her work on food freight transportation and how it is linked with market concentration and limited food access in urban and rural communities uses key system dynamics concepts. Her work on regional food logistics benefits directly from Donella Meadows’ articulation of systemic leverage points in a system and shows how improved logistics can benefit efforts to reduce GHG while systemically addressing equity issues. This work is grounded in real world application, as she serves on a local committee to create a wholesale food terminal to serve Wisconsin farmers and their supply chains.

Selected publications:

Miller, M., Holloway, W., Perry, E., Zietlow, B., Kokjohn, S., Lukszys, P., Chachula, N. Reynolds, A., and Morales, A. (2016). Regional FoodFreight: Lessons from the Chicago Region. Project report for USDA-AMS, Transportation Division. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.21422.51522

Lengnick, L., Miller, M. and Marten, G. (2015) “Metropolitan Foodsheds: A Resilient Response to the Climate Change Challenge?” Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences. November 2015 DOI 10.1007/s13412-015-0349-2 L.

Miller, M. and J. Solin (2015). “The power of story for adaptive response – marshaling individual and collective initiative to create more resilient food systems” Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences. October 2015 DOI 10/1007/s13412-015-0332-y