Jayson Otto

Year in Program: 4

Committee Chair: Thomas Summerhill

Committee Advisors: Phillip H. Howard, Delia Fernández-Jones, Lisa Fine

Fields of Interest: American History; Food Systems, Agricultural History; Political Economy/Ecology of Food

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

email: ottojays@msu.edu


I am a PhD Candidate 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 an agroecological perspective of the development of the lower peninsula’s western spaces.

I came 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, farm inspector, 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.