New Mitchell Center member: Michael Haedicke

Mitchell Center members share a passion for tackling complex sustainability problems that matter to people and communities through collaboration with diverse stakeholders and across many different areas of expertise. They come from a wide range of disciplines—from engineering and economics to fisheries and agriculture to business and communication—and take an interdisciplinary approach because that’s what’s needed to meet today’s challenges. They seek to connect knowledge with action to create a brighter social, environmental, and economic future in Maine and beyond.

Learn more about who they are and what they do in this ongoing series of profiles.

Michael HaedickeDr. Michael Haedicke joined the sociology faculty at UMaine in fall 2020 and became a Mitchell Center faculty fellow soon after. He earned master’s and doctoral degrees in sociology from the University of California, San Diego, and is the author of Organizing Organic, a book-length study of the organic foods industry. 

His primary research examines how concerns about sustainability become institutionalized in or excluded from markets and public policy. He has also studied food system labor and health issues, with a particular focus on meatpacking and migrant farm workers. He is a committed teacher and is also passionate about sharing sociological perspectives beyond the classroom.

What problem/s are you working to solve?

As a sociologist, my research focuses on collective efforts to build more sustainable food systems, as well as on the emerging politics of coastal climate adaptation. I work to understand how people’s engagement in these areas is informed by different cultural understandings of sustainability, as well as by economic and political contexts. At the same time, I investigate how social inequalities can limit people’s ability to benefit from sustainability initiatives and how these initiatives can become more equitable. These efforts contribute to the development of culturally sensitive and inclusive sustainability science.

What progress are you making toward solutions?

I have presented my research in traditional academic venues, but also in a variety of public fora. For instance, I have written for The Conversation, a news website, presented before community groups, and led professional webinars. I believe that publicly engaged scholarship advances informed decision-making while also fostering greater reflexivity and receptiveness to diversity among sustainability practitioners.

“The Mitchell Center not only provides resources and connections to other researchers and community leaders, it also offers intellectual stimulation and has provoked me to think about the public impacts of the work that I do.”

How could your work contribute to a more sustainable future in Maine and beyond?

I am a new resident of Maine, having arrived in this great state in the summer of 2020. I’m still learning about the issues that are important to communities here and about the important work that many people are doing in different areas of sustainability. Still, I believe that the themes that guide my work are very relevant to Maine’s sustainable future. Not only is Maine a coastal state with an important agricultural economy, but it also hosts distinctive and long-established cultural communities, as well as new forms of diversity created by recent immigrants. This cultural and socioeconomic diversity should be a source of strength for sustainability initiatives in Maine, and my work contributes to this goal.

Why did you decide to join the Mitchell Center?

In the Mitchell Center, I have found a supportive and collegial group of people who continually challenge me to engage with real-world problems. The Mitchell Center not only provides resources and connections to other researchers and community leaders, it also offers intellectual stimulation and has provoked me to think about the public impacts of the work that I do. In my view, the Mitchell Center is a truly unique and important asset to the University of Maine and the state as a whole!

What’s the best part about collaborating with other researchers, and with stakeholders?

Cross-disciplinary collaborations and partnerships with community stakeholders have enabled me to understand sustainability issues from different points of view. I have gained a great deal of understanding from these relationships, which I would not have had access to without the Mitchell Center’s support.

Where’s your favorite place in Maine?

When we first arrived in Maine, my wife and I somewhat naively set out to hike the North Ridge Trail on Cadillac Mountain. It was a lot more work than we anticipated, but the memories of the beautiful views have stayed with me for a long time.

What sustains you?

I’m very privileged to be a faculty member at Maine’s flagship university. As a teacher, I find the moments where ideas click and members of a class create new insights and understandings to be very rewarding. The transition to remote learning during the time of COVID has posed challenges for almost everyone, but the open-mindedness and resilience of many of my students has helped to sustain and inspire me.