Professor; Director, Arrell Food Institute; Fellow of the Trudeau Foundation
Evan started thinking about agriculture and food systems while spending summers working on his grandfather’s fruit farm in Niagara. There, he watched his stock-broker grandmother rake in an unconscionable amount of money on commissions from her clients’ investments while the farmers around were letting their crops rot because the cost of harvesting was higher than the cost of importing from the Southern US and Mexico. He decided, however, it was easier to write and talk about farming than actually try to make a living on it so passed on inheriting the family farm, opting instead for grad school. He did degrees in forestry, anthropology and agriculture at UBC and UofT. Since graduating, he worked in a policy institute with the Hon. Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, and began his academic career in 2003 in the UK where he worked on farming and climate change at the University of Leeds.
Today, Evan works with large multi-disciplinary teams on developing solutions to help feed the world’s growing population while not destroying the ecosystems on which we depend for life.
A passionate communicator, Evan has written for the Globe and Mail, the Guardian.com, CNN.com, ForeignAffairs.com, the Walrus and the Ottawa Citizen, and has two popular non-fiction books about food and food security including Empires of Food: Feast, Famine and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations that was published by Simon and Schuster and shortlisted for the James Beard Food Literature Award. He has also co-produced/co-hosted 3 1-hour radio documentaries for CBC’s premier documentary show Ideas on the future of food.
As a researcher, Evan is a co-author on over 100 academic papers and book chapters, played a leadership role in teams that have raised over $100M in research funding, and mentored close to 50 graduate students.
Between 2016-18 he co-convened an ad hoc working group made up of producer groups, the food industry, philanthropy and civil society to propose that the Federal Government of Canada should create a National Food Policy Advisory Council. The creation of this council was announced by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food Canada in the summer of 2019.
Evan’s web video series on “feeding nine billion” has been watched over 500,000 times, he has self-published a graphic novel called #FoodCrisis about a fictitious food crisis that hits North America in the 2020s. Evan has also created a card game about global food security that won a gold medal at the International “Serious Play” conference. The videos, the graphic novel and the card game have been pulled together in a series of teacher-friendly high school lesson plans that are used in classrooms around the world.
He is a full professor of Geography at the University of Guelph and helps lead the Food from Thought initiative, which is a $76.6 million research program based at the University of Guelph that explores how to use big data to reduce agriculture’s environmental footprint.
Today, Evan is the director of the Arrell Food Institute at the University of Guelph, which was established by a $20 million-dollar gift from the Arrell Family Foundation. In this capacity, he co-chairs the Arrell Food Summit, and manages the Arrell Food Scholarship program as well as the Arrell Food Innovation Awards that deliver hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to groups that have made tremendous impacts on global food systems.