There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.
— Martha Graham


Harriet Friedmann, Professor Emerita, University of Toronto

Pollinator of an Emerging Mode of Human Foodgetting

I am a food system analyst, writer and lecturer. Since retirement in 2012, I freely pollinate worlds of academia, policy and activism across scales of organization. Beginning at the intersection of Rural Sociology and World Systems, I have progressively engaged with natural sciences and ways of knowing, all through the lens of intertwined histories of monocultures and creative place-based foodways emerging in their shadows. I look to the future by exploring transitions to sustainable ways of inhabiting places in the earth and connecting them across the whole earth, and to sustainable ways of organizing all our relationships to be responsible foodgetters. 


I first entered the un-named realm that became “agro-food systems” in the 1970s by studying the historical emergence of a world wheat market. I intuited that this would be an intrinsically important way to understand world economy holistically, from settler farms to finance, migration, logistics and inter-state power. My PhD (Harvard, 1977) turned out to cross two unrelated fields --- Rural Sociology and World-Systems.* The first led to influential articles on farming systems and the second to collaboration with Philip McMichael on a historical approach called food regimes. I am now exploring natural history and historical nature of food and farming, and their possible futures.

I was also lucky to be connected with the early emergence of the pioneering Toronto Food Policy Council and its eventual embrace of city-regional food systems.** These connections happily converged with two emergent phenomena: the inter-disciplinary intellectual field of food studies*** which contributes to reconnecting social and natural sciences; and the social movements, social economy experiments, and policy initiatives at all scales, contributing to potential transformations in human relations to land, bodies, society, and governance.

I followed the food-farming thread from Sociology into the Centre for International Studies (now the Munk School of Global Affairs) and the Department of Geography and Planning at the University of Toronto. Since becoming Professor Emerita in 2012, I have been Visiting Professor at Agrarian, Food, and Environmental Studies at the International Institute of Social Studies, The Hague (Erasmus University) and Institute of Political Economy at Carleton University in Ottawa. Recent visiting research collaborations include Sustainable Food Systems Initiative, School for Environment and Sustainability, University of Michigan, Sustainable Places Institute, Cardiff University, UK,  Laboratoire d'Excellence des Etudes Mediterranée, Aix-Marseille University, France, CPDA (Federal Rural University, Rio de Janeiro), Brazil,  CIRAD, Montpellier, France. I will soon be Visiting Scholar at the Liu Institute of Global Affairs, University of British Columbia and Pufendorf Institute of Advanced Studies, Lund University, and lectured at numerous places. My main passions now are seed biodiversity,+ city food regions,** commons, resilience theory,  and exploring with others the present possibilities for food system transformations in world-ecological context++ --- what might be called emergent modes of foodgetting.

*Chair, Political Economy of the World-System Section, American Sociological Association, 1994-95, two of 40 “Most Influential Articles" in Journal of Peasant Studies 

**Now an honorary member (and memory keeper) of the Toronto Food Policy Council (Community Chair in the 1990s); Strategic Advisory Board of the International Urban Food Network; Toronto Advisory Group,  City Region Food Systems

***Lifetime Scholar Award, Canadian Association of Food Studies 2011. Present Editorial Advisory Boards: Journal of Agrarian ChangeCanadian Food StudiesFood and FoodwaysJournal of World-Systems Research, and Theory and SocietyRural Studies Books Series (SER), Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul and the Graduate Program in Rural Development. Past Boards: Journal of Peasant Studies, Studies in Political Economy.

+Board of Directors USC-Canada, assisting small farmers to protect diverse seeds (2011-2017); and Toronto Seed Library (until 2019). I was deepened in this path as Review Editor (2005-07) International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IIASTD).


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