Steve Gliessman

For John Vandermeer

Can you imagine what it was like to be standing in front of a group of curious and critical young Mexican agronomists-to-be in Tabasco, Mexico in the late 1970s, trying to translate into Spanish one of John’s early foray’s into the quantification of diversity and competition in intercropping systems in the tropics? This was before John learned to dominate Spanish, and before I understood what the heck he was talking about! Now John can present his own talks in Spanish, but I still don’t think I understand most of the theoretical agroecology that he keeps coming up with!

John has had profound impact on my formation first as an ecologist, and then, my formation as an agroecologist.   We are both what might be called self-proclaimed agroecologists. This began with the basic question of why is there more diversity in the tropics that we asked over and over again in OTS Tropical Biology: An Ecological Approach courses from 1969-1972. It moved from questions about nature to questions about agriculture during my sojourn as resident farmer ecologist at Finca Loma Linda in Coto Brus, Costa Rica in 1972-1974, and visits from his team of ecologists beginning to ask questions about how ecology and agriculture could mix. Next it moved to Cárdenas, Tabasco, Mexico, at the Colegio Superior de Agricultura Tropical from 1976-1980, during which time we shared the beginnings of agroecología, standing together in a Mayan farmer’s planting of corn, beans, and squash talking about species interactions, and where NWAG came into existence over multiple Tecates.

After I moved to UC Santa Cruz in 1980, and agroecología became agroecology, this sharing in each of our developments as agroecologists continued. We linked forces when we tried to bring agroecology into OTS in 1985 and 1986 with the Tropical Agroecology summer course in Costa Rica. And after that, meetings, students, ideas, and even a beer or two, have helped move the field of agroecology to where it is today. I think that the symposium on agroecology that we all took part in at the ESA Centennial in Baltimore last year was a great summary of where we have come from, and perhaps most importantly, pointing out where agroecology must go in the future in order to integrate the science, practice, and movements for social justice needed in food systems around the world.

Thank you, ¡compadre!


Steve Gliessman

Professor Emeritus of Agroecology

UC Santa Cruz, CA