When Margaret Jodlowski speaks with farmers and producers, she notices the curious smiles that break out on their faces when she divulges that she did not grow up on a farm but in the city of Chicago. She welcomes the question that always comes next: how in the heck did she end up working in the field of agriculture?
Jodlowski explains that even though the Chicago suburbs are surrounded by miles and miles of farm fields, her path to agriculture happened pretty randomly. She was interested in developing countries and working to solve world hunger when she received a brochure detailing the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s agricultural economics major. She was immediately interested.
“Once I saw that coursework would address food security, I never looked back,” she said. “Everybody needs to eat, and it is really important to understand where food comes from.”
Jodlowski just completed her PhD at Cornell University’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and she recently joined The Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics (AEDE) as an Assistant Professor. Jodlowski was attracted to the variety offered through the position. She will begin outreach work this fall, engaging producers, stake holders and policy makers across the state on the farm bill cycle and decision tools. She will begin teaching in the spring of 2021. She looks forward to working with students and attracting them to engage in the work she is so passionate about.
“Teaching and research go together,” said Jodlowski. “The problems I work on are not out of reach for them.”
The bulk of her research explores how farms and other agricultural operations impact rural economies and environments, and how those, along with policy changes in those spaces, affect the nature of agricultural production.
“This interplay is of increasing importance from both a research and policy perspective given the current and persistent trends of rural decline, farmland concentration, and climate variability,” said Jodlowski.
Jodlowski also studies Issues related to labor, for example, what labor a farm uses and conversely, the labor the farm household provides to surrounding farm business and rural communities due to the fact that many farmers also work off-farm jobs to help cover expenses. Her research shows that income that comes from off-farm work is used differently when it comes to the gender of the one doing the work.
“When men work off-farm, the farm takes on more debt,” said Jodlowski. “It is the opposite for women. When they work off-farm, the farm doesn’t take on debt, the household does.”
Jodlowski says this discrepancy could have to do with social pressure. Considering today’s farmers and producers juggle the management of environmental risk, production risk, and financial risk, her research and outreach will be an essential addition to the work of the department; to generate and disseminate impartial information through the application of economic and business principles to the challenges of agriculture, the food system, the environment, and economic development.