Conference Speakers


Thursday May 28, 2015Welcome and Overview

John Vandermeer “Welcome and Overview” 

No information.

Philip McMichael “Connecting Local Struggles with Global Activism in Intergovernmental Arenas: The Importance of the Food Sovereignty Narrative” 

Philip McMichael is Professor and Chair of the Department of Development Sociology at Cornell. His research is informed by a world-historical perspective and focuses on food regimes and food sovereignty, the land grab, and rethinking the agrarian question. He has authored Food Regimes and Agrarian Questions (Fernwood, 2013), Development and Social Change: A Global Perspective (Sage, 2012), and the award-winning Settlers and the Agrarian Question (Cambridge, 1984); and he has edited Contesting Development: Critical Struggles for Social Change (Routledge, 2010), and co-edited Biofuels, Land and Agrarian Change, with Jun Borras and Ian Scoones (Routledge, 2011). He is a member of the Civil Society Mechanism in the FAO’s Committee on World Food Security, and has collaborated with La Vía Campesina, and the IPC for Food Sovereignty.

Hannah Wittman “From Protest to Policy: The Challenge of Institutionalizing Food Sovereignty”

Hannah Wittman is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Land and Food Systems and the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability (IRES) at the University of British Columbia. She received her PhD in Development Sociology from Cornell University. Her research projects examine the ways that the rights to produce and consume food are contested and transformed through struggles for agrarian reform, food sovereignty, and agrarian citizenship. Recent co-edited books include Food Sovereignty in Canada: Creating Just and Sustainable Food Systems and Environment and Citizenship in Latin America.

Annette Desmarais – “Analyzing the Global Food Sovereignty Movement” 

Annette Aurélie Desmarais is the Canada Research Chair in Human Rights, Social Justice and Food Sovereignty at the University of Manitoba. Annette is the author of La Vía Campesina: Globalization and the Power of Peasants (2007) that has been published in French, Spanish, Korean, Italian and Portuguese. She also co-edited Food Sovereignty: Reconnecting Food, Nature and Community (2010) and Food Sovereignty in Canada: Creating Just and Sustainable Food Systems (2011). Prior to obtaining her doctorate in Geography, Annette was a small-scale cattle and grain farmer in Canada for fourteen years. She also worked as technical support to La Via Campesina for a decade and continues to conduct participatory research with member organizations of this transnational agrarian movement.

Kami Pothukuchi – “Public Discussion: The Expansive and Expanding Narrative of Food Sovereignty”

Kami Pothukuchi is associate professor of urban planning at Wayne State University and the founding director of SEED Wayne, a campus-community collaboration to build sustainable food systems in Detroit.

Her research examines the links between food and community and economic development and the roles public and nonprofit agencies might play to foster these links. Her research topics include retail grocery in low-income neighborhoods; urban agriculture as a tool for neighborhood improvement; community food assessments; local food policy; and community and regional planning to build more sustainable food systems.

Kami co-authored the Community and Regional Food Planning Policy Guide, which was adopted by the American Planning Association in 2007. A co-authored paper on how linkages between transportation and agri-food systems affect community health was recently released as part of a report by Policy Link and Prevention Institute to promote health in transportation legislation debates.

SEED Wayne (Sustainable Food Systems Education and Engagement in Detroit and Wayne State University) is a campus-community partnership dedicated to building more sustainable food systems on the campus of Wayne State University and in Detroit neighborhoods. SEED Wayne seeks to integrate sustainable food system themes into core university functions of education, research, engagement, and operations, with diverse activities on campus and on Detroit’s Eastside.

Pothukuchi also serves on the Detroit Food Policy Council and the Detroit Food and Fitness Collaborative. She has served two terms on the governing board of the Community Food Security Coalition, a national organization that conducts policy advocacy, training and technical assistance, and outreach on a variety of community food issues. She also works as a volunteer and consultant with other organizations engaged in community food policy and program development nationally and in the Detroit area.

Bruce Ferguson – “Public Discussion: The Expansive and Expanding Narrative of Food Sovereignty”

Bruce Ferguson: I am a researcher and professor in the Agroecology group and Coordinator of the of the Agriculture, Society and Environment Department at El Colegio de la Frontera Sur in Chiapas, Mexico. I am a graduate of Kalamazoo College (BA) and the University of Michigan (MS, PhD), where I was part of the Perfecto and Vandermeer research group. My research and teaching explore the nexus of agroecology and ecological restoration in tropical Mexico. Through fieldwork in Guatemala and Nicaragua on forest regeneration in agricultural landscapes, I observed first hand the struggles of small farmers and came to appreciate the depths of their ecological knowledge. I continue to study forest regeneration in Chiapas, but my current work emphasizes agroecological education, urban agroecology, participatory agroecological certification, and, more generally, scaling up agroecology for more just and sustainable food systems. In my view, these facets of the movement toward food sovereignty are also, in a profound sense, ecological restoration.


Friday May 29, 2015: New and Unresolved Issues in Food Sovereignty

Andrew Jones – “Food Sovereignty and Public Health in the International Arena”

Andrew Jones is a public health nutritionist, interested in understanding the influence of agriculture and food systems on household food security, and the nutritional status of women and children in low-income set¬tings. He examines the role of food security in shaping the co-occurrence of micronutrient deficiencies and overweight among women of childbearing age, and the intergenerational consequences of this “double burden” on infant and child nutrition. His research includes a focus on the evaluation of programs and policies that aim to improve maternal and child nutrition, especially through food systems-based approaches. Andrew has ongoing research projects in India, southern Africa, and throughout the Andean region of South America. Prior to his current appointment in the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan, Andrew worked as a Research Associate in the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University. He has also worked as a consultant for several institutions, including UNICEF, the International Food Policy Research Institute, and the World Bank. He also served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kazakhstan from 2002-2004. Andrew received his PhD in International Nutrition from Cornell University, and holds BA degrees from the Pennsylvania State University in Geography and Film Production.


Christina M. Schiavoni – “Food Sovereignty in the US Context: The Politics of Convergence Among Movements”

Christina M. Schiavoni is a food movement activist and scholar from the US currently doing PhD research at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) in The Hague, Netherlands. Before joining ISS, she was deeply engaged in food sovereignty efforts as an organizer and advocate in the US and globally. This includes involvement in the 2007 Nyéléni Global Forum on Food Sovereignty, the International Planning Committee on Food Sovereignty, the Civil Society Mechanism of the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS), and the launching of the US Food Sovereignty Alliance and the Food Sovereignty Prize. Recent research includes evaluation of the Civil Society Mechanism of the CFS and studies on the impacts of agricultural investment on the right to food of small-scale farmers in Tanzania, and she continues to follow (and support, as possible) efforts toward food sovereignty in the US. Her dissertation research is focused on “the politics of ending hunger,” particularly tensions and synergies between state- and citizen-led efforts, drawing from the case of Venezuela, where a food sovereignty experiment has been underway in the context of a dynamic shift in state-society relations. She is co-guest editor of a forthcoming Globalizations special issue on food sovereignty.

Jennifer Blesh – “The Ecology of Agrocoecology and the Agroecology of Food Sovereignty”

Jennifer Blesh: As a broadly trained agroecologist, I use interdisciplinary research approaches to understand how different agrifood systems impact ecological and social processes. My ecological research focuses on soil nitrogen and carbon biogeochemical cycles, agroecosystem nutrient management, and legume nitrogen fixation. Current projects include assessing land reform settlement farms in the Brazilian Cerrado for socioecological resilience, and research in the U.S. centered on cropping system diversification and improving nitrogen retention in farm fields. My research program pays particular attention to alternative production-consumption relations, and is guided by a pragmatic motivation to support development of more ecologically sustainable and equitable food systems. Jennifer is an Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment. She received her Master’s and PhD from Cornell University.

Malik Yakini – “Building Food Sovereignty in Detroit: Opportunities & Challenges”

Malik Yakini is a founder and executive director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, which operates a seven-acre farm in Detroit. Along with DBCFSN he spearheaded efforts to establish the Detroit Food Policy Council, which he also chaired. Yakini was a member of the Michigan Food Policy Council, and serves on the steering committee of Undoing Racism in the Detroit Food System. From 1990 to 2011 he was executive director of Nsoroma Institute Public School Academy, one of Detroit’s leading African-centered schools. Yakini was honored as Administrator of the Year by the Michigan Association of Public School Academies in 2006, and served on the board of directors of Timbuktu Academy of Science and Technology from 2004 to 2011. He is also CEO of Black Star Educational Management. Yakini is dedicated to working towards identifying and alleviating the impact of racism and white privilege on the food system, and contributing to the development of an international food sovereignty movement. He has presented at numerous national conferences on food justice and implementing community food security practices. Yakini is also featured in the book Blacks Living Green and the movie Urban Roots, and is currently a Food and Community Fellow for the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

Helda Morales – “Public Discussion: New and Unresolved Issues in Food Sovereignty”

Helda Morales: My interest in conservation and entomology as an undergraduate in my native Guatemala made me realize the importance of agriculture in the construction of resilient landscapes. While at the School of Natural Resources at the University of Michigan for my doctoral studies, I started to document the role of traditional Mayan agricultural knowledge to design sustainable agroecosystems and to provide ecosystems services. In my first 8 years as a full-time researcher at ECOSUR, Chiapas, México, I successfully worked hand-in-hand with farmers to restore their traditional agroecosystems and avoid dangerous pesticides. Sadly I soon discovered that despite their efforts, consumers were little concerned with how and where their food was produced and that farmers were having a hard time selling their produce. In the last 6 years I have shifted my focus to education and food systems, and am working closely with local and international food organizations. I now conduct action research projects on school gardens, urban agriculture and farmers’ markets. I work with children, teachers, consumers and farmers to build fair, environmentally friendly food system for all.

Branden Born – “Public Discussion: New and Unresolved Issues in Food Sovereignty”

Branden Born is an Associate Professor in the department of Urban Design and Planning at the University of Washington, where he has been on faculty since 2003. He received his master’s and PhD in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Wisconsin. He studies planning process, land use planning and regional governance, and food systems. Recently his interests have included questions of democracy in societal decision-making and the role of the state and planning in a neoliberal context. Professor Born sits on the Puget Sound Regional Council’s Regional Food Policy Council, the Washington State Food System Roundtable, and is has collaborated with researchers, community members, and local governments on several healthy community initiatives in King County, Washington. He is co-author of the American Planning Association’s Planning Advisory Service Report on Planning for Community and Regional Food Systems, and has written articles addressing food systems planning theory and practice.

Karla Pena – “Who is the Sovereign in Food Sovereignty? A historical perspective”

No information.

M. Jahi Chapell – “Food Sovereignty and Deep/ Deliberative/ Participatory Democracy”

M. Jahi Chappell: In his path to IATP, M. Jahi Chappell has been a bodywash formulation engineer, agroecologist, science and technology studies postdoc, and assistant professor of environmental science and justice. He has worked with and consulted for groups like Via Campesina, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the urban agriculture nonprofits Growing Hope (Ypsilanti, Michigan) and Growing Gardens (Portland, Oregon). In academia, his research in political agroecology combined conservation biology, political economy and ecology, science and technology studies, sociology, and ecological economics to create a unique understanding of the stakes and opportunities within contemporary food systems. He is a leading scholar of the food security policies of the city of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, which served as a basis for Brazil’s acclaimed national Zero Hunger programs. The underlying purpose of his work has been and continues to be the construction of a participatory, socially just, ecologically sustainable food system that serves and supports both farmers and citizens (not just “consumers”!). His experiences across sectors and countries has helped him learn how to listen to and work with a wide diversity of groups.

He holds a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and a Bachelor’s of Science in Chemical Engineering (both from the University of Michigan), and conducted postdoctoral research at Cornell University. He served as Chair of the Agroecology Section of the Ecological Society of America from 2012–14.

Peter Rosset – “Food Sovereignty as a Social Movement of Struggle”

Peter Rosset is a professor and researcher in the Agriculture, Environment and and Society department at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte (ECOSUR) in Chiapas, Mexico . He also a researcher at the Centro de Estudios para el Cambio en el Campo Mexicano (CECCAM) in Mexico, is co-coordinator of the Land Research Action Network, and is a staff member of La Via Campesina International. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Monica White – “Public Discussion: Persistent Structures Looking Forward”

Monica M. White earned a Ph.D. from Western Michigan University in Sociology. She is an assistant professor of Environmental Justice at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a joint appointment in the Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and the Department of Community and Environmental Sociology and is a former Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of African American Studies at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign.

Her publications include, “Sisters of the Soil: Urban Gardening as Resistance Among Black Women in Detroit” and “D-Town Farm: African American Resistance to Food Insecurity and the Transformation of Detroit.” She is currently working on her first book, “Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement, 1880-2010,” which contextualizes new forms of contemporary urban agriculture within the historical legacies of African American farmers who fought to acquire and stay on the land. Using historical and contemporary examples, Freedom Farmers examines the development of farmers’ cooperatives as strategies of resistance, and documents the ways that these organizations, in general, and Black farmers specifically, have contributed to the Black Freedom Movement.

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 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 highly ranked and reviewed blog (soil2soul) and is highly sought after and has presented her work at many national and international community organizations, colleges and universities.

Eric Holt-Gimenez – “Public Discussion: Persistent Structures Looking Forward”

Eric Holt-Giménez has been Executive Director of Food First since 2006. He is the editor of the Food First book Food Movements Unite! Strategies to Transform Our Food Systems; co-author of Food Rebellions! Crisis and the Hunger for Justice with Raj Patel and Annie Shattuck; and author of the book Campesino a Campesino: Voices from Latin America’s Farmer to Farmer Movement for Sustainable Agriculture and of many academic, magazine and news articles. Of Basque and Puerto Rican heritage, Eric grew up milking cows and pitching hay in Point Reyes, CA, where he learned that putting food on the table is hard work. After studying rural education and biology at the University of Oregon and Evergreen State College, he traveled through Mexico and Central America, where he was drawn to the simple life of small-scale farmers.

After spending over twenty-five years with the resourceful farmers of Central America and Mexico, Eric holds a deep appreciation for the value and power of building local food systems. But he has also become painfully aware that working locally is never going to be enough to bring about the larger changes that are needed: “Small farmers and underserved urban communities need changes in national food policies and international trade rules to have a fighting chance of feeding themselves and building healthy, prosperous livelihoods.”

Eric has a MSc. in International Agricultural Development from University of California at Davis and a PhD in Environmental Studies from the University of California at Santa Cruz. He has taught Development Studies at UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, Boston University and the National Gastronomic University in Pollenzo, Italy. Prior to working at Food First, he served as the Latin America Program Manager for the Bank Information Center (BIC) in Washington DC.




Dr. Dorceta Taylor is a professor of environmental sociology at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment where she is the Coordinator of the Environmental Justice Field of Studies. She also holds a joint appointment with the Program in the Environment. Dr. Taylor is a past Chair of the American Sociological Association’s Environment and Technology Section. Professor Taylor received doctorates in Sociology and Forestry & Environmental Studies from Yale University in 1991, a Master of Arts and Master of Philosophy from Yale University in Sociology and Forestry & Environmental Studies in 1988, a Master of Forest Science from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies in 1985, and a Bachelor of Arts Environmental Studies and Biology from Northeastern Illinois University in 1983.

She teaches courses in environmental history, environmental politics, environmental justice, climate change and sustainable development, gender and environment, and sociological theory. Describing her approach to teaching, she writes, “I believe that each person has the capacity to learn and get excited about environmental issues. I think a thorough understanding of the past informs present thinking and actions. I believe that teaching that is built on a foundation of solid knowledge, rigor and freedom to push the boundaries and think beyond the ordinary produce the most exciting results.”

Her research focuses on history of mainstream and environmental justice ideology and activism, social movements and framing, green jobs, diversity in the environmental field, urban agriculture, and food justice. She participated in the landmark 1990 environmental justice conference at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment – Race and the Incidence of Environmental Hazards – and contributed a chapter to the book of the same name. She also helped to develop the environmental justice program at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment – the first such program in the country.

In 2014 Dr. Taylor authored of a national report, The State of Diversity in Environmental Institutions: Mainstream NGOs, Foundations, and Government Agencies. She authored a second diversity report in 2014 entitled, Environmental Organizations in the Great Lakes Region: An Assessment of Institutional Diversity. Her latest book, Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility (New York University Press) was published 2014. The book examines the racial and socio-economic dimensions of exposure to environmental hazards in the U.S. She is also the author of The Environment and the People in American Cities: 1600s-1900s. Disorder, Inequality, and Social Change (Duke University Press). The book examines the history of environmental inequality and urban environmental activism. It received the Allan Schnaiberg Outstanding Publication Award given by the Environment and Technology Section of the American Sociological Association in 2010.

Professor Taylor is also the editor-in-chief of the International Encyclopedia of Environment and Society that will be published by Wiley Blackwell. She is currently the Program Director for the Multicultural Environmental Leadership Development Initiative (MELDI – She has conducted a national study of minority and white students in university environmental programs to find out about their preparation for the environmental workforce, willingness to work in environmental organizations upon graduation, salary expectations, and whether they consider issues related to equity and diversity in the workplace relevant to their job satisfaction. As a corollary, Dr. Taylor has also conducting a parallel study of employees in environmental organizations to find out about their work experiences. In particular, she is interested in recruitment and retention, salary compensation, perceptions of equity and discrimination on the job, diversity, career development, and networking opportunities on the job. A third study has also been conducted among environmental organizations to find out about institutional factors relating to recruitment and retention of employees, the institution of mentoring programs, diversity efforts, employee review procedures, and the demographic characteristics of these organizations. These studies have been sponsored by the Joyce Foundation.

In 2005 Professor Taylor held a National Summit on Diversity in the Environmental Field at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment in Ann Arbor (see: Results from these studies have been published in BioScience, Journal of Environmental Education, Research in Social Problems and Public Policy, and Environmental Practice.

Dr. Taylor also conducted a fourth study that is closely related to those already mentioned above. The National Science Foundation funded her to examine the status of minority faculty in university environmental departments. She conducted a survey of minority and white faculty to find out about recruitment, retention, promotion and tenure, career development, opportunities to collaborate with colleagues or take on leadership roles, networking, and mentoring. She convened an international Faculty Diversity and Environmental Justice Research Symposium at the University of Michigan in June 2007 to discuss diversity in the environmental field and the state of environmental justice research (http://sitemaker.umich. edu/diversityejreserchsymposium). The summit resulted in the publication of the book, Environment and Social Justice: An International Perspective, in 2010. Results of her faculty diversity study as well as other papers presented at the 2007 conference are included in the volume.

Dr. Taylor received a $4,000,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study food insecurity in Michigan in 2012. She is particularly interested in the lack of access to healthy food outlets in minority and poor inner-city neighborhoods. She is also examining the role that urban agriculture can play in increasing access to healthy foods to poor urban residents.

Wendy Wolford, Polson Professor of Development Sociology, Cornell University. One of my colleagues recently referred to me gently as “not a thoroughbred,” and I think that is something of an understatement. I have been trained by economists, geographers, sociologists and anthropologists, and I draw on an eclectic range of critical social theorists to help me understand the way the world works (or doesn’t). My research interests include the political economy of development, social movements and resistance, agrarian societies, political ecology, land use, land reform, and critical ethnography, all with a regional concentration in Latin America, particularly Brazil.