The AFHVS Early-Career Excellence Award is named in honor of long-time AFHVS member Ken Dahlberg.

Kenneth A. Dahlberg was a graduate of Northwestern University (BA 1957), Stanford University (MA 1961), and the University of Colorado (PhD 1966). He joined the Political Science Department at Western Michigan University in 1966.  Ken built a national and international reputation as a leading scholar in the fields of international relations and international environmental affairs, sustainable food and agricultural systems, natural resources, the conservation of biological diversity, healthy and sustainable food systems, and appropriate technologies. His book Beyond the Green Revolution was awarded the 1981 Harold and Margaret Sprout Award as the “best work dealing with international environmental issues.” He was elected a fellow of the AAAS in 1982. In 1991, he received the WMU Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award, and he served as the Director of the WMU Environmental Studies Program from 1998 until his retirement in 2001.  After retirement, he continued working in his areas of interest for many years, with his last paper completed in December of 2019. 

Ken was active in the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society from its creation, serving as a board/council member from 1987-1988, 1991-1996, and 1997-1999, and was elected President for the 1999-2000 term.   He co-edited the June 1999 special issue (v. 16, No. 2) of the AFHVS Journal, entitled "The restructuring of food systems: Trends, research and policy issues," which contained articles on many of the topics that Ken felt were especially important, including community food security, globalization in the food system, urban agriculture, food policy councils, and food policy planning.

In addition to the AFHVS, many organizations benefited from Ken’s participation and steady leadership over the years.  He was a Steering Committee member of ATTRA, was an invited expert for the UN Center for Science and Technology for Development, was a member of the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Program, participated in the International Studies Association, served on an advisory panel on appropriate technology for the Clinton Administration, and participated in Governor Granholm’s Michigan Climate Action Council.

Ken firmly believed in working at all levels to promote change.  He was involved in numerous local initiatives to support the preservation of natural spaces, and to increase the production and accessibility of local and organic food.  He was a Director of the Michigan Land Trustees from its beginning in the late 1970s until 1986 and then served as chair from 1986 until 2019.

On the personal side, Ken was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. Time spent each year at the summer cabin his father built in the mountains helped give him a strong appreciation of the environment. During high school he worked summers on his brother's farm, which gave him a solid grounding in small scale agriculture. He served in U.S. Army Intelligence for two years and was stationed in Wiesbaden and Heidelberg, Germany. Ken was a Fulbright scholar in Brussels, Belgium. He took research sabbaticals in England and Australia, and enjoyed traveling to many parts of the world. Playing handball twice a week with his colleagues was a favorite activity for more than 40 years.

Ken found the best in others and was inclusive of all. He enjoyed working with students and serving as a mentor. Ken treasured his friendships and loved his family and spending time with them. His two daughters, Kirsten and Birgit, have established this scholarship in memory of their father’s commitment to teaching and mentoring students.

“Ken was a kind, caring and generous mentor for many of us. I was not in one of his classes, but he was my teacher. He carried his class wherever he went. He was in Toronto and I later had the chance of co-editing a special issue of Agriculture and Human Values with him. I had a first hand chance to see his commitment to excellence, care for diversity, and respectful guidance of younger colleagues. I will remember him with great respect and admiration.” 

- Mustafa Koc, Professor, Department of Sociology;
Director, Centre for Studies in Food Security, Toronto Metropolitan University

“Ken Dahlberg was a fine scholar - a political scientist whose scholarship, both theoretical and practical, addressed the social, economic and political processes that enable (and prevent) life-affirming systems of environmental regeneration to operate.  Indeed, “regeneration” was his mantra.  It was clearly apparent in his work in agricultural sustainability and land use.  It was just as apparent in his signature 20-minute “power naps” that restored his seemingly unlimited energy. But, perhaps most apparent (at least to this now-retired colleague) was his eagerness to befriend and encourage new scholars, and thus to ensure that there would be a next (re)generation of deep thinkers and fully-committed activists, who love the earth as much as he did.  The Ken Dahlberg Award honors Ken’s work and wishes.  It is a living memorial.”   

- Laura B. DeLind, 2014 winner of the Richard P. Haynes
Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award in Agriculture, Food, and Human Values

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