Marilyn (Mickie) Swisher, PhD
3031 McCarty Hall D
Phone: (352) 273-3538
Dr. Swisher serves as the University of Florida’s State Coordinator to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) Program and the Director of the Center for Sustainable & Organic Agriculture. The SARE program focus is to develop integrated programs that address the environmental, economic and social aspects of food systems, particularly food systems that address the needs of underserved communities. As Director of the Center for Sustainable & Organic Agriculture, Dr. Swisher works with faculty members in several colleges and departments at the University of Florida to address the research and educational needs of Florida farmers and consumers.
Dr. Swisher’s research, conducted in collaboration with students and other faculty members, focuses on two main areas of inquiry. The first is the impact of the contemporary food movement with its emphasis on certification (organic, free trade, bird friendly, etc.) and on class, gender, and ethnic stratification among both producers and consumers in the United States and elsewhere. Examples include research examining the outcomes of market-based strategies for enhancing opportunities for smallholder rural households in Africa and the strategies employed by smallholders in the U.S. to enhance farm profitability and sustainability. Research with consumers focuses on the impacts of the contemporary emphasis in the U.S. on local and organic foods on limited resource households, particularly with regard to potential impacts on self-efficacy and identity. Dr. Swisher’s other area of interest is in the scholarship of learning and teaching, in both formal (classroom) and informal (outreach) settings. This research includes theory-based development and evaluation of educational programs and interventions in the area of sustainable agriculture and food systems.
In addition to her primary appointment in the Department of Family, Youth & Community Sciences, Dr. Swisher has graduate faculty appointments with the School of Natural Resources and the Environment, the Department of Geography, the Center for Latin American Studies and the Center for African Studies. She teaches two graduate courses in research design and methods and two in community theory and practice. Her research design and methods courses, taught in sequences, give the student a foundation that encourages use of multiple designs to strengthen the quality of conclusions that s/he can reach and the use of multi-method ways of collecting and analyzing data. Theories of Community Development provides students with an opportunity to compare how different social theoretical perspectives are reflected in different approaches to addressing the problems, issues and needs of contemporary communities. This course focuses on how to apply theory to develop science-based interventions, programs and policies for communities. Sustainable Community Development examines how the processes of population growth, globalization and urbanization affect contemporary challenges to sustainability in areas like climate change, food demand and supply, natural resources conservation, and social conflict. Students examine contrasting approaches to addressing these challenges from a social, economic and environmental perspective.
Dr. Swisher has expertise in community development and has worked with communities in the U.S. and internationally, particularly rural communities. Her experience includes 25 years of experience with the Florida Cooperative Extension Service. She served as the Director of the Center for Rural Development at Zamorano University in Honduras, a private, international school that provides undergraduate and graduate education in agriculture, natural resource management and rural development. She has also served as a professional for development projects in Haiti, Costa Rica, Cameroon, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Dr. Swisher has served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS). This organization is a consortium of over 80 universities and research institutions involved in research and education programs in the area of resource conservation in the tropics. OTS is recognized worldwide as a leader in tropical conservation, research and education.