Steven Vanek


As an indication of the twists and turns that can lead one to contemplate food systems, I pursued physics in my undergraduate program at Cornell University, and then, through a series of volunteer and teaching experiences with rural development organizations in the developing world, I attended graduate school first in Horticulture for an MS and then a PhD in soil science. I've conducted basic research on the processes that allow soils to feed plants and supply food systems, but much of my work has been on understanding agriculture at an applied level and in the way it contributes to global food systems, from case studies of organic farms in the Northeast United States, to collaborations with nutritionists in studying Bolivian smallholder farming households. I currently collaborate with a Peruvian organization that seeks better options for maintaining soil fertility with forage crops that can also feed livestock in the Andes of South America. Over the last two years I have been pursuing a post-doctoral research post in the Geography lab of Karl Zimmerer, where we study relationships between agrobiodiversity, soil management, and geographic factors of tropical mountain regions. In my time at Penn State we have been able to try out some of the content of this course in a seminar course last spring. I'm very happy for the opportunity to form part of the multifaceted team that has authored the course, and to be a Penn State instructor for this innovative approach to fostering your learning about food and sustainability. Last but not least, I love food in all its varied glory, from the Czech and Italian recipes of my family to homemade kimchi, bread, and barbecue that I've attempted over the years. I appreciate pretty much any restaurant that can serve decent portions.

Resource Programs