Ryan Galt sitting in a field

Ryan Galt appointed as faculty director of the Agricultural Sustainability Institute

The College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences is pleased to announce that Ryan Galt, professor in the Department of Human Ecology, has been appointed as faculty director for the Agricultural Sustainability Institute (ASI) at UC Davis.

Galt joined UC Davis faculty in 2007 and has conducted extensive research and taught courses on the relationship between society, agriculture, food and the environment. Galt earned a Ph.D. in geography from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and as a geographer, his research has included working together with biophysical scientists on social-ecological issues in agrifood systems. Galt says both of his parents earned bachelor’s degrees from UC Davis; his mother studied human development with a focus on child development, and his father studied international agricultural development. While he credits his parents for inspiring him along his career path, he says working on a walnut and catfish farm near Modesto and at his uncle’s research farm in the town of Hughson while he was in high school really sparked his interest in agriculture.

I worked as a farm hand on both of those farms and ever since then I was hooked on agriculture,” Galt said. “I found it totally fascinating to have these plants and animals, raising them, taking care of them, providing food for everyone; it was an amazing thing to be part of.”

Galt and ASI-affiliated faculty members helped develop the sustainable agriculture and food systems major, which launched in 2011 and focuses on environmental, social and economic challenges and opportunities regarding agricultural and food systems sustainability.

“Helping to develop a major that provides students the experiences, skills and knowledge needed to lead the food system to a more sustainable future is one of the most meaningful things I’ve done,” Galt said. “Our students have gone on to work for food companies, farms and on projects focused on treating people, land and resources respectfully. Every time I hear what they’re doing now, I’m so proud and slightly envious. I mean, how cool would it be to travel the world in search of new, sustainable ingredients for teas, for example? Those sorts of jobs didn’t exist when I was that age. Now, they do, and our students are ready for them.”

ASI focuses on creating science-based solutions for some of today’s most pressing sustainability challenges and operates research and teaching facilities including the Student Farm and the Century Experiment at the Russell Ranch Sustainable Agriculture Facility. ASI is also the host institution for the Inter-Institutional Network for Food, Agriculture, and Sustainability (INFAS), a national networking group for university programs that focus on food, agriculture, sustainability and racial equity. In his new role, Galt says he’s eager to tackle issues including discovering ways to cut farmers’ dependency on fossil fuels and improving healthy food access in California and beyond.

“The declining health of our climate, soil, food and bodies are clear indicators that something is going wrong here on this planet,” Galt said. “There’s no eject button. There’s one way out of this, and it’s to change how we’re doing things. I’m excited to be here, now, with such an abundance of information, resources, inspiration and energy to help catalyze the transition to a more sustainable and just agriculture and food system.”

Galt will also hold the W.K. Kellogg Foundation endowed chair in Sustainable Food Systems. He was a MacArthur Foundation endowed chair in Global Conservation and Sustainability in 2015-2020, and has served as chair of the graduate group in geography and program director for the community and regional development program in the Department of Human Ecology.

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