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Come to the Table 2019 Conference Keynote Speakers

Dr. Monica White, author of Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement

Dr. Monica M. White is an assistant professor of Environmental Justice at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research investigates communities of color and grassroots organizations that are engaged in the development of sustainable, community food systems as a strategy to respond to issues of hunger and food inaccessibility. Her recent publications include “A Pig and a Garden: Fannie Lou Hamer and the Freedom Farms Cooperative,” in Food and Foodways: Explorations in the History and Culture of Human Nourishment.  Her first book, entitled, “Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement,” is under contract with University of North Carolina Press, and is scheduled to be released fall 2018.  
Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement revises the historical narrative of African American resistance and breaks new ground by including the work, roles, and contributions of southern Black farmers and the organizations they formed. The book traces the origins of Black farmers’ organizations to the late 1800s, emphasizing their activities during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Whereas much of the existing scholarship views agriculture as a site of oppression and exploitation of Black people, Freedom Farmers reveals agriculture also as a site of resistance by concentrating on the work of Black farm operators and laborers who fought for the right to participate in the food system as producers and to earn a living wage in the face of racially, socially, and politically repressive conditions. Moreover, it provides an historical foundation that will add meaning and context for current conversations regarding the resurgence of agriculture in the context of food justice/sovereignty movements in urban spaces like Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, New York City, and New Orleans.

In addition to her academic work, she is the past President of the Board of Directors of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN), and has served on the advisory board of SAAFON (Southeast African American Farmers Organic Network). Active in the food justice movement for over a decade, especially active in Detroit with the DBCFSN, her work in the classroom and community embodies the theoretical framework of Collective Agency and Community Resilience and the use of community-based food systems and agriculture as a strategy of community development.

As a result of her scholarship and community work, Dr. White has received several grants including a multi-year, multi-million dollar USDA research grant to study food insecurity in Michigan. She has also received several teaching and service awards including the 2013 Olsen Award for distinguished service to the practice of Sociology from the Michigan Sociological Association and the Michigan Campus Compact Faculty/Staff Community Service-Learning Award. She was appointed to the Food Justice Task Force sponsored by the Institute for Agricultural Trade Policy (IATP), maintains a quarterly column for the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems and Community Development (JAFSCD) and has presented her work at many national and international community organizations, colleges and universities.

Dr. White will be speaking on “Freedom Farmers: The History of Black Agricultural Cooperatives and Building Sustainable Communities.”

Historically, Black farmers created agricultural collectives and cooperatives in an effort to build economic and political self-reliance and to demonstrate the capacity of a community to come together to provide food, housing, shelter, education, health care, and employment. This talk will provide a historical overview of several cooperatives and their efforts to create community wellness. It will also describe Collective Agency and Community Resilience, a theoretical framework that details how agriculturally-specific community organizations can contribute to the development of a food system that is inclusive, just and sustainable.




Dr. Eric Holt-Giménez, Executive Director of Food First

Eric Holt-Giménez, Ph.D. is the executive director of Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy (July 2006—present). Called one of the country’s “most established food think tanks” by the New York Times, Food First’s mission is to end the injustices that cause hunger, poverty, and environmental degradation throughout the world. Food First believes that a world free of hunger is possible if farmers and communities take back control of the food systems presently dominated by transnational agri-foods industries.

A political economist and agroecologist, Eric grew up working on farms in Northern California and worked for over 30 years in international agricultural development. He has published many magazine and academic articles on agroecology, development, food justice, and food sovereignty and is author/editor of several Food First books, including: Can We Feed the World without Destroying It?; A Foodies Guide to Capitalism: Understanding the Political Economy of What we Eat; Land Justice: Re-imagining land, food, and the commons; Food Movements Unite! Strategies to transform our food system (2011); Food Rebellions: Crisis and the Hunger for Justice (2009); and Campesino a Campesino: Voices from Latin America’s Farmer to Farmer Movement for Sustainable Agriculture (2006) in which he chronicles his involvement with this movement in Mexico and Central America over two and a half decades. Eric lectures internationally and has taught undergraduate and graduate courses at the University of California, Boston University, University of the Pacific, Antioch University in Colombia and the National Gastronomic University of Italy. He has a Ph.D. in Environmental Studies from the University of California—Santa Cruz and a M.Sc. in International Agricultural Development from University of California—Davis.  At Food First, Eric’s research and writing has included issues such as the global food crisis, the U.S. Farm Bill, the expansion of agrofuels, land grabs, neighborhood food systems, dismantling racism in the food system, the agrarian question, and the rise of food movements. In his words,

“Successful social movements are formed by integrating activism with livelihoods.These integrated movements create the deep sustained social pressure that produces political will—the key to changing the financial, governmental and market structures that presently work against sustainability.”

Eric will be speaking on “Farm Justice, Food Sovereignty and the Transformation of Everything.”