Patricia Allen is Director of the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her work focuses on the political economic structures that can constrain or enable social equity in sustainable agrifood systems.
Allen published an edited volume, Food for the Future: Conditions and Contradictions of Sustainability, on issues in sustainable agriculture in 1993. Her 2004 book, Together at the Table: Sustainability and Sustenance in the American Agrifood System, analyzes social movements and alternative agrifood institutions in the United States.
Her recent research and publications focus on food-system localization and implementation of alternative agrifood practices such as community supported agriculture, farmers' markets, organic farming, and farm-to-institution programs. Her newest research project is on gendered inequalities in productive and reproductive labor in the U.S. agrifood system; this project is funded by the National Science Foundation and is in collaboration with Carolyn Sachs of Penn State University. Allen is also a member of a U.S. Department of Agriculture research team on food systems and public health.
Throughout her career, Allen has collaborated on numerous local, statewide and national initiatives and conferences, working to highlight the social issues of sustainability. For example, as coordinator of the University of California Small Farm Center, she was part of a small team that initiated and organized the first California Farm Conference in 1981, and later lead the effort to integrate sustainable agriculture into the existing themes of family farming and direct marketing.
In 1985 she spearheaded and organized the first UC system-wide symposium on the sustainability of California agriculture and the next year organized an international conference on organic agriculture and agroecology. In 1990 she conceptualized and organized a national conference on ethics, environment, and equity to discuss a broad-based vision for agricultural sustainability and highlight the need for an accompanying research agenda.
Allen's commitments to sustainability and food system issues grew from her childhood in a small family farm environment in California. She earned her B.S. in Political Economy of Natural Resources at UC Berkeley and an M.S. in International Agricultural Development at UC Davis before completing a Ph.D. in Sociology.