Theme and Plenary Speakers



It takes a region to cultivate a transformative food system that  is in right relationship to people, place, and planet.

Everything that we do requires balance. Just as plants seek the right relationship between rain, sun, nutrients, soil, and each other to flourish, we must also seek balance within ourselves, our organizations, our ecosystems, and our communities.

We are struggling with imbalance: some have hoarded resources at the expense of others, who are left with too few; some wield power, where others have little influence over their own destinies. Some go without adequate food, others suffer to produce it or are deprived of land and foodways, and all beings are harmed by continually contaminated watersheds, polluted air, and depleted soils. We grow anyway, as all life will because that is the essence of life. We survive, but we cannot thrive without the precious balance between, within, and among human and non-human alike.

What does it take to come into right relationship with each other? First, we must name the imbalances and their impacts. Then we must recalibrate, always being aware of our own power and access to resources, and acknowledging that some of us having more than we need often requires that others go without. These are wounds we can heal together, with full knowledge that this balancing restores land, community, and self. This is the beauty and essence of solidarity: our liberation is bound together.

In the midst of this grand transition, we invite you to come hear from others who are transforming our food system, to share what you know, gather resources for the world we seek together, and experience what thriving can and might feel like over a few days in the City of Brotherly Love.


Opening Plenary - Laying out the Work Ahead of Us

Friday, Oct 26, 8:30 - 9:45am | Liberty Ballroom

What stands in the way of achieving a transformative food system that equitably nourishes people and the planet? If we are to achieve a truly transformative food system, we must hold ourselves accountable for the ways we have helped to construct these barriers, and learn what we need to do to take them down. In this plenary we will name some of the less visible problems in the food system. Join us as we hear from activists and leaders working on the local to the global: with urban farmers, dairy producers, farm workers, immigrants, and the next generation of food systems leaders.


Charlyn Griffith, Wholistic.Art and Soil Generation; Niaz Dorry, National Family Farm Coalition and Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance; Rafaela Rodriguez, Milk with Dignity; Vanessa Garcia Polanco, Department of Community Sustainability at Michigan State University

Moderated by Kathy Lawrence, NESAWG Board Member, consultant at Antibiotic Resistance Action Center, Milken Institute School of Public Health, George Washington University



Afternoon Plenary - Cultivating the Strategies to Transform the Food System

Friday, Oct 26, 1:30 - 2:45pm | Liberty Ballroom

Around the Northeast, dedicated people are working in small ways and big to build the food system we all want to see. This work takes vision, analysis, and commitment, and persistence to keep doing it in the face of setbacks and heartbreak. We will hear from leaders about what they do to educate, empower, and mobilize their community and colleagues to work towards a transformative food system.

Speakers: Leah Penniman, Soulfire Farm; Lan Dinh, VietLead; Cristina Martinez, El Compadre Restaurant, Popular Alliance for Undocumented Workers' Rights

Moderated by Onika Abraham, NESAWG Board Member, Farm School NYC


Closing Plenary - Staying Inspired and Moving Forward

Saturday, Oct 27, 11:30am - 12:30pm | Liberty Ballroom

Where do we want to be? How do we leverage what is underway to advance the work identified to be done? What keeps us inspired and moving forward, hopefully together? We close the conference hearing from leaders who will answer these questions in their own work and their thoughts for the food system as a whole, so that we are energized to return to our communities and continue this work.

Speakers: Neftali Duran, I-Collective; Brandy Brooks, Environmental Leadership Program Senior Fellow, CRN '15; Ingabire Adam, Massachusetts Avenue Project

Moderated by Heber Brown, NESAWG Board Member and Black Church Food Security Network