Evan started thinking about agriculture and food systems while spending summers working on his grandfather’s fruit farm in Niagara, Ontario. There, he watched his stock broker grandmother rake in an unconscionable amount of money on commissions from her clients’ investments while local farmers were letting their crops rot because the cost of harvesting was higher than the cost of importing from the Southern U.S. and Mexico. Evan decided, however, that it was easier to write and talk about farming rather than actually try to make a living on it. He passed on inheriting the family farm, opting instead for grad school. He earned degrees in forestry, anthropology and agriculture at UBC and UofT. After graduating, he worked in a policy institute with the Hon. Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, and began his academic career in 2003 in the U.K., 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 on for life.
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.
Evan is also 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.
A passionate communicator, Evan has written for The Globe and Mail, the Guardian.com, CNN.com, ForeignAffairs.com, The Walrus and The Ottawa Citizen. He also has three 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 three one-hour radio documentaries for CBC’s premier documentary show Ideas on the future of food. His 2022 book, Dinner on Mars: The Technologies That Will Feed the Red Planet and Transform Agriculture on Earth, was co-written with his fellow CDL Mentor Lenore Newman.
As a researcher, Evan is a co-author on approximately 150 academic papers and book chapters, played a leadership role in teams that have raised over $120 million in research funding, and mentored around 50 graduate students.
He is the co-chair of the Canadian Food Policy Advisory Committee, which is a multi-stakeholder group that provides advice to the federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada on the Food Policy for Canada and the vice-chair of the Maple Leaf Centre on Food Security, a major funder of community-based food security programming in Canada. Other past and present committee work includes helping the Weston Family Foundation on agri-food and sustainability funding, sitting on the European Commission’s High Level Expert Group on Food System Science, and a scientific advisory board that helps guide Protein Industries Canada.
Evan’s web video series on “feeding nine billion” has been watched over 700,000 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.