Agrobiodiversity

34: Kristyn Leach of Namu Farm on finding roots and community through plants, adapting Korean vegetables to California, and figuring out farming without fossil fuels

Kristyn Leach runs Namu Farm at the Sunol AgPark east of the San Francisco Bay.  She grows vegetables for San Francisco restaurant Namu Gaji and seeds for the Kitazawa Seed Company. Kristyn grows both traditional and whimsical produce, focusing on Korean varieties and using organic, biodynamic, and permaculture practices without any fossil fuels. She discovered the foods of her Korean heritage further on in her life, as she was adopted as an infant and grew up in New York, where she later became a part of the urban gardening movement. Her fascination with shiso led her back to her roots and connected her with her Korean roots. In this episode, Devon talks with Kristyn about finding roots and community through plants, adapting Korean vegetables to California, and figuring out farming without fossil fuels.  

23: Hillary Sardiñas on the incredible diversity of native pollinators, the threats they face, and how they contribute to our food system

Hillary Sardiñas is a pollination ecologist and naturalist. She has a PhD from UC Berkeley, where she studied the ability of small-scale on-farm native plant restorations to contribute to both wild bee conservation and farm viability through increased yields due to heightened crop pollination. Hillary blogs about current pollinator-related research, translating science into key points for the public. Hillary is the Pacific Coast Pollinator Specialist for the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, a non-profit dedicated to the protection of wildlife and their habitat. Hillary provides technical assistance to farmers incorporating pollinator habitat on their farms. She also conducts a variety of educational events throughout the West Coast. In this episode, Hillary talks to Chelsea about the incredible diversity of native pollinators, the threats they face, and how they contribute to our food system.

22: Simran Sethi on the biodiversity behind the flavors we love, democratizing taste, and how everyone can take back their own experience of food

Simran Sethi is a journalist and educator focused on food, sustainability and social change. Named the environmental “messenger” by Vanity Fair, a top 10 eco-hero of the planet by the U.K.’s Independent, and designated one of the top eight women saving the planet by Marie Claire, Simran is the author of Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love, a beautiful, personal book about the story of changes in food and agriculture told through bread, wine, chocolate, coffee and beer. She is an associate at the University of Melbourne’s Sustainable Society Institute in Australia, a contributor for Orion Magazine and a recent visiting scholar at the Cocoa Research Centre in St. Augustine, Trinidad.  In this episode of Delicious Revolution, Chelsea talks to Simran about the biodiversity behind the flavors we love, democratizing taste, and how everyone can take back their own expertise in food.  

18: David Asher on raw milk, kefir cultures, and how diversity makes cheese and food systems resilient

David Asher is an organic farmer, farmstead cheese maker and cheese educator based on the gulf islands of British Columbia, Canada. A guerrilla cheesemaker, David does not make cheese according to standard industrial philosophies - he explores traditionally cultured, non-corporate methods of cheesemaking. David offers cheese outreach to communities near and far with the Black Sheep School of Cheesemaking.  Through workshops in partnership with food-sovereignty-minded organizations, he shares his distinct cheesemaking style.  His workshops teach a cheesemaking method that is natural, DIY, and well suited to the home kitchen or artisanal production. He is the author of The Art of Natural Cheesemaking.  David talks with Devon about raw milk, kefir cultures, and how diversity makes cheese and food systems resilient. 

12: Liz Carlisle on The Lentil Underground, farmers as innovators and scientists, and the links between soils, markets, and vibrant rural communities.

Liz Carlisle is the author of The Lentil Underground, a story of organic conversion and community organizing in the northern Great Plains.  Her book follows a group of farmers from very different ideological backgrounds as they revolt against industrial agriculture, diversify their farms, build soil, and come together to form new markets for their products. Liz holds a Ph.D. in Geography from UC Berkeley, and lectures at Stanford and UC Berkeley.  She is a Montana native, former country singer/songwriter and legislative aid to Senator Jon Tester of Montana.  In this episode, Liz talks to Devon about The Lentil Underground, farmers as innovators and scientists, and the links between soils, markets, and vibrant rural communities.

11: Kyra Busch on agrobiodiversity, learning solidarity, and thinking on a 100-year time frame

Kyra Busch has advocated for local food sovereignty for over a decade.  Working with the Alternative Agriculture Network of Thailand and the Educational Network for Global and Grassroots Exchange, she worked on successful initiatives to certify and import Fair Trade Thai jasmine rice to the U.S. and to prevent an inequitable U.S.-Thai free trade agreement. Kyra spearheaded the nation’s first Indigenous farm-to-school program and managed a culturally appropriate food delivery program for diabetic elders on the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota. Kyra holds a Master’s degree in Social Ecology of Conservation and Development from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, where she wrote her thesis on a groundbreaking biocultural curriculum in Kuna Yala, Panama. Kyra is now the program officer for Agrobiodiversity, Food Sovereignty and Resilient Biocultural Landscapes at the Christensen Fund in San Francisco.  In this episode, Kyra talks to Devon about farmers who love the fabulous diversity of traditional rice varieties in Thailand, how traveling and studying abroad can lead to solidarity, the promise of agrobiodiversity for a sustainable food system, and thinking about agroecology on a 100-year time frame.  

10: Brian Dowd-Uribe on Burkina Faso, GMO cotton, and making alliances across inequality

Brian Dowd-Uribe is a food systems researcher and assistant professor at University of San Francisco.  He met Devon in the Environmental Studies PhD program at UC Santa Cruz.  There, Brian’s research took place in Burkina Faso, where he looked closely at the introduction of genetically modified cotton and its impact on state and its cotton companies, and at the impacts of liberalization on farmer livelihoods.  At the same time, with a group of other PhD students at UC Santa Cruz, Brian co-founded the New Roots Institute for the Study of Food Systems.  He worked as a post-doc at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, looking at community gardens in East Harlem, and then for three years at the University of Peace, a United Nations-affiliated university in Costa Rica.  He and his family recently returned to Northern California, where he grew up, for a tenure-track position at University of San Francisco.  In this episode, Devon and Brian talk about Burkina Faso’s unique high-quality cotton industry, prospects of genetically modified crops in bringing economic development to the poor, and the need to (and joy of) creating alliances and relationships across unequal differences in power.  

3: Maywa Montenegro on GMOs, agrobiodiversity, and the politics of who speaks for science

Maywa Montenegro de Wit is a seed scholar and science writer who I know through many mutual friends and through the agroecology movement.  I love to keep up with her written work, in part because it is so well crafted, but also because she continually brings fresh analysis and perspective to conversations that can feel tired-- like conversations about the role of urban agriculture, the importance of biodiversity conservation, and the use of genetically modified organisms. She is a PhD Candidate at UC Berkeley, where her research focuses on the social relations around seeds and seed systems.  She also has a degree in molecular biology, and a masters in science writing from MIT. She publishes work in academic journals and also widely in the popular press.  She was an editor at Seed Magazine, and her work is published recently by Ensia, Gastronomica, The Huffington Post and Grist.org, among many other publications.

Maywa talks with Devon about the conservation of crop wild relatives, GMOs, the food movement, and the privileged positioning of scientific knowledge and the need to recognise many kinds of knowledges about food.