Mary Beckie



About Me

Dr. Mary Beckie is a Professor and Director of Community Engagement Studies in the Faculty of Extension at the University of Alberta.

She holds an interdisciplinary doctorate in Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development from the University of Saskatchewan. Following the completion of her PhD, Mary was a research associate at the University of Wales, as part of the team coordinating a European study of organic agriculture and rural development.

Current teaching and research focuses on community engagement and sustainable community development, particularly as relates to agri-food system and the roles of the social economy and local government. Mary’s research is predominantly community-engaged and has taken place in western Canada, Cuba, Sri Lanka, India, and the UK.

Mary’s work has been published in a variety of journals dealing with alternative agri-food systems, community development and engaged scholarship including: Agriculture and Human Values; Rural Sociology; Agriculture, Food Systems and Community Development; Local Environment; Community Development; and Community Engagement and Scholarship. She is co-editor of Scaling Up: Convergence of Social Economy and Sustainability (2016; Athabasca U Press) and Sustainability Planning and Collaboration in Rural Canada: Taking the Next Steps (2016; U of Alberta Press).

Mary grew up on a farm in south central Saskatchewan. Her first career path focused on the natural sciences and following the completion of a BSc in Biology and a MSc in Molecular Genetics she was involved in teaching and agricultural biotechnology research in post-secondary and federal research institutions. Her interest in alternative agri-food systems and sustainable development led to a career change and her enrolment in the PhD program described above.

Digging in the dirt and growing food is one of Mary’s favorite past-times and when possible she tries to incorporate opportunities to do this while teaching and researching, for example: assisting in initiating a SPIN-farming project with senior immigrants in Edmonton; and, taking students on a 7-week experiential (hands-on) learning program in Cuba on agroecology. When not gardening, Mary continues to struggle to learn Spanish and salsa dancing.


  • scholarship of engagement
  • sustainable development

  • social learning, communities of practice, knowledge and power

  • alternative agri-food systems

  • social movements

  • interdisciplinary research

  • experiential learning


  • theory and practice of sustainable community development
  • sustainable and localized food systems
  • citizen engagement and community capacity building
  • alternative learning environments and transformative learning
  • Research methods: case-study, Delphi, mixed method, community-based research