Ryan E. Galt                 

Associate Professor of Agricultural Sustainability and Society

Department of Human Ecology, Community and Regional Development Unit



I am a broadly-educated geographer whose teaching and research interests are centered on the relationship between society, agriculture, food, and the environment.  This is a long-standing theme within the discipline of geography, expressed in the subfields of cultural-historical ecology, cultural ecology, and now political ecology.  I have a regional focus on the Americas, specifically Costa Rica, the Midwest, and California, and also utilize multi-scalar approaches to understanding environmental, agricultural, and social phenomena and processes.

My research mostly focuses on the governance of agrifood systems.  To date I have primarily used the framework of geographical political ecology to understand agriculture and food systems.  I also use theoretical perspectives from geographical and sociological work in the political economy of agriculture.  I am increasingly interested in the philosophical foundations of interdisciplinary learning aimed at enhancing sustainability, especially the philosophy of critical realism; the facilitation of competency development; and the praxis of critical pedagogy based in social constructivism.  I remain dedicated to cartographic and visual explanations based on graphic design principles.

My specific topical interests include:

  1. the globalization and localization of fresh produce,

  2. community supported agriculture (CSA) and alternative agrifood system generally,

  3. local food systems and greenhouse gas emissions,

  4. pesticides and agrochemical use,

  5. governance in specific agrifood commodity chains,

  6. the social and environmental effects of farmers’ integration into different markets, and

  7. contested understandings of environmental contamination.

I am very interested in understanding larger-scale interventions aimed at making complex commodity chains with multiple links more sustainable, and in grassroots movements that are attempting to reshape the agrifood system.  Much of my work focuses on extra-economic demands placed on farmers (e.g., for low levels of pesticide residues on food, environmental services, etc.), as well as practices and arrangements that are informed by values other than efficiency (such as environmental stewardship, social justice, etc.).  I aim to understand how these demands and commitments are embodied and shaped by social processes and structures, including markets, institutions, and governance forms generally.  At the local level, I investigate the ways in which communities and organizations — farmer networks, NGOs, and universities — and the local agricultural context — farm size and resources, marketing relationships, and the biophysical environment — constrain and/or enable farmers' responses to changing social contexts and demands, and farmers' attempts at reshaping the food system.  I am also interested in empirically understanding the effects of these changes on production practices, rural livelihoods and communities, and sustainability at the local level.

Photo explanations (top to bottom, left to right):

  1. potato harvest in Gaurumos, Cartago Province, Costa Rica

  2. Libby O'Sullivan stands next to an heirloom wheat variety at an organic CSA farm

  3. a farm worker fills a backpack sprayer with pesticides, south of Cipreses, Cartago Province, Costa Rica

  4. class exercise on scale led by Katie Feilen, Gregory Tarver & Colleen Hiner in my graduate seminar, CRD 244: Political Ecology of Community Development

  5. community map of Bastimentos, Bocas del Toro Province, Panamá

Mailing List

Send me an email to be notified when I have new papers, books, presentations, and pedagogical materials available.


Office: 2429 Hart Hall [see map]

Phone: +1 (530) 754-8776

Fax: +1 (530) 752-5660

Email: regalt at ucdavis dot edu


University of California, Davis

1309 Hart Hall

One Shields Avenue

Davis, CA 95616-8523

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