Jayson Otto

Year in Program: 3

Committee Chair: Helen Zoe-Veit

Committee Advisors: Phillip H. Howard, Delia Fernández-Jones, Thomas Summerhill

Fields of Interest: American History; Food Systems, Agricultural History; Municipal Political Economy and Public Services of the Progressive Era, Political Economy/Ecology of Food

Education: M.S., Ecological Food and Farming Systems, Michigan State University; B.S., Anthropology, Grand Valley State University

I am a third-year doctoral student studying the history of food systems in the United States, more specifically my previous research looked at public marketplaces and gardening programs of the Progressive Era and uncovered the contested participatory democracy surrounding the development of retail and wholesale farmers markets in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I plan to extend this line of inquiry, using the political economy/ecology and cultural meaning of food as a lens, to the agroindustrial development of west Michigan’s urban centers.

I come to the MSU history department after a couple of decades of scholarship, teaching, and practice from a variety of disciplines, perspectives, and domains in the food system. The bulk of my last thirty years was spent working in or studying food systems. Whether as a short-order cook, line cook, barista, fast food worker, instructor, researcher, student, farmers market manager, produce sorter, volunteer coordinator, volunteer, activist, delivery driver, gardener, eater, or simply a curious human, I spent a lot of time thinking about growing, processing, distributing, and consuming food.