Agroecology

52: Jahi Chappell on Beginning to End Hunger

M. Jahi Chappell is a political agroecologist with training in ecology and evolutionary biology, science and technology studies, and chemical engineering. He is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR) at Coventry University, and a Fellow of Food First.

Jahi has recently published a book called Beginning to End Hunger: Food and the Environment in Belo Horizonte, Brazil and Beyond. It is rooted in his field research in Belo Horizonte over more than a decade, and presents a far-reaching analysis of how to end hunger, what is keeping us as a society from doing it, and how we might overcome the many obstacles in our way.  Devon spoke to Jahi in the cafeteria of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, during a vibrant symposium on agroecology.  We talk about the experience of Belo Horizonte’s massive investment in food security, the expansion of those ideas to Brazil’s Fome Zero (Zero Hunger) programs, and the need to build trust between groups and find common agendas so that we as a movement are ready when political windows open for radical change. 

Photo courtesy of Cecilia Rocha.

51: Elizabeth Mpofu of La Via Campesina on peasant leadership and fighting together

Elizabeth Mpofu is the General Coordinator of La Via Campesina, a global coalition of more than 164 farmer organizations from 73 countries.  She is also a small-scale farmer in Zimbabwe, the leader of the Zimbabwe Smallholder Farmers’ Forum, and an advisor to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.  In this episode, she describes her unexpected path to leadership in the food sovereignty movement, the fight to be respected as peasants around the world, and the struggle for representation of the people most affected by development decisions.  We spoke at the Thousand Currents offices in Berkeley last year.  

Photo: DFID (CC 2.0)

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.

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.  

1: Caiti Hachmyer on rural gentrification, the contradictory economics of farming, and no-till at a human scale,

Caiti Hachmyer runs Red H Farm in Sebastapol, California, growing vegetables for the Sebastapol farmers market and a community supported agriculture program.  She is also a researcher and food systems activist.  Her research has taken her into the strategies and politics of land tenure for urban farming, and the workings of the world bank.  She is the author of the 12th edition of Alternatives to the Peace Corps from Food First Books, as well as many articles on farming on the Farmers Guild website.  She holds an MA in urban planning from Tuffs, and she has worked as a researcher and organizer for Food First and the Community Alliance with Family Farmers.

Devon talks with Caiti about farming in Sonoma County, the tension between a thriving market for artisanal food and a high cost of living, Caiti’s experiments with dry-farming and no-till at a human scale, and more.  

Links:

Red H Farm website

Red H Farm on Facebook

Caiti on Women Farmers on the Farmers’ Guild site

Caiti on The How and Why of No-Till

An interview with Caiti