From the Field

A World Worth Saving: Reflections from the Food Futures Conference

In April, FIGC hosted its third annual food systems conference on “Food Futures” to amplify decolonizing and indigenizing movements that can shape the future of food.

September 21, 2023

By Jesús Nazario and Kristida Chhour

On the first day of the conference, held fully online over Zoom, there were two panels and a keynote presentation from Laura Harjo. The first panel, titled “Alternative Food Networks for Agroecological Transitions and Good Living,” was moderated by Dulce María Espinosa de la Mora and included five Mexican scholars conducting agroecological research across the country. This panel, held in Spanish with English translation, was the first panel of its kind for Food Systems conferences organized by FIGC since 2021. 

Procuring Sustainable Foodswas another highlight of the first day, where four wonderful panelists discussed how acquiring food in the contemporary moment is filled with various challenges that include respecting traditional ways of knowing, transitioning to a sustainable food system, and innovating new foods such as cannabis-infused products. 

Dr. Laura Harjo’s keynote address, titled “Seeds of Mvskoke Futurity: Activating Possibilities for Our Future Relatives,” responded to the theme of Food Futures by discussing how Indigenous ways of knowing are critical to any societal future. During her keynote, Dr. Harjo presented Mvskoke traditional knowledge systems as critical for the revitalization of Indigenous food sovereignty in the Mvskoke nation, and as a principal way in which Indigenous sovereignty can be enshrined for generations to come. 

The second day of the conference was held in person at the Multicultural Community Center in the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union and the Native Community Center in Anthony Hall. Here, we convened for a delicious lunch before kicking off with a panel titled “Food Justice Networks: Decolonizing Foodways and Land Stewardship.” This panel was moderated by Dr. Vicky Chang, BFI’s Educational Programs Director. In this panel, Maria Villalpando Paez presented about tortilla making in rural Mexico. Maria brought together themes of food sovereignty, energy sovereignty, and gender and how these factors interact with each other in the tortilla making process. Her presentation was followed by Belinda Ramirez’s presentation about urban agriculture movements in San Diego and Tijuana. Belinda discussed struggles for autonomy in these movements by telling the story of Joe’s Pocket Farm in National City. 

Lastly, Solaire Denaud presented Rastafari perspectives on food and decolonization by diving into the history of the Rastafari movement and the concept of Babylon. Solaire outlined how the Rastafari movement is anti-racist and anti-colonial in general and with respect to growing, cooking, and the markets of food. After this engaging panel, the film Gather was screened, followed by a keynote presentation from Dr. Charisma Acey. Dr. Acey’s presentation titled “Black Futures, Food Futures: Embodying Just Futures through Policy and Activism” connected Black liberation struggles with environmental justice.

As we start to think about what Food Futures mean to each of us, we implore our readers and attendees to critically think about methods and methodology as not just the way in which research is conducted. Rather, as Red River Métis scholar Max Liboiron would say, methods when viewed from an anti-colonial perspective can be a way to practice a way of living the world that is “tied up in obligation” (Pollution is Colonialism, pg. 1) to the Indigenous lands we live on.

To conclude, we repeat a few questions we asked to Food Future attendees: What does “Food Futures” mean to you? What can it mean to all of us if we take other ways of knowing seriously?

The Food Systems conference was made possible through support from the Berkeley Food Institute, the Native American Student Development Office, the Multicultural Community Center, the Native Community Center, the Big C Fund, the Graduate Assembly (GA), and the Green Initiative Fund (TGIF).