Biomigrations: Food Sovereignty, Security, and Justice in the Americas

Friday, April 2, 12 – 5pm, and Saturday, April 3, 10am – 3pm

Virtual conference on Zoom.

Day 1 video

Day 2 video

Not Your Typical Food Conference: A Reflection on the Biomigrations Conference by Jesús I’x Nazario, Dhruv Patel, and Irene Farah.

“Biomigrations,” as Jesús Nazario defines it, is a way to reconsider notions of Life and Movement. It is a way to explore one’s community, self, and spirit(s) through violence, refusal, and Indigenous rooting. In other words, Biomigrations is premised on the idea that humans need to know how we are enacting structural pain(s) to humans and non-humans through our Being (violence), how we have arrived at such becoming (refusal), and where we have come from (Indigenous rooting). 

The conference’s main goal will be to collaboratively connect American scholars, community members, and artists through the lenses of Food Sovereignty, Food Security, and Food Justice. The Biomigrations conference will also give specific focus on Indigenous and Black knowledge, people, and lands.

Questions for discussion at the Biomigrations conference may include: 

  • How has access to nutritious and fresh foods changed throughout migrations in North, Central, and South America? 
  • How has Black and Indigenous ownership of farmland shifted across generations in the Americas? 
  • How are women and queer people shaping food justice movements across the American continents?

This conference is organized by the Berkeley Food Institute (BFI) Graduate Council. Cosponsored by: The Graduate Assembly, Multicultural Community Center, Native American Studies Program in the Department of Ethnic Studies, Othering and Belonging Institute, Latinx Research Center, Center for Latin American Studies, and the Native American Student Development (NASD) office.


Cart Captioning will be provided. If you require any other accommodation (e.g. translation, etc.) for effective communication in order to fully participate in this virtual event, please contact Nathalie Muñoz ( at least 7–10 days in advance.

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Conference Schedule

Day 1 Friday, April 2nd
12:00pm – 12:15pm Land acknowledgment and Introduction to Biomigrations
12:15pm – 1:15pm [Panel] From Security to Expansion: Framing New Food Categories and Experiences
1:15pm – 2:00pm Movie screening: Raspando Coco
2:00pm – 3:00pm [Panel] Cultivating Solidarity: Garden Worlding Across Fields
3:00pm – 4:00pm [Panel] (Un)bounded Food Histories: Towards Sovereignty and Resistance
4:00pm – 5:00pm Keynote: Elizabeth Hoover, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and
, UC Berkeley
Day 2 Saturday, April 3rd
10:00am – 10:15am Land acknowledgement, opening remarks by Julisa Lopez, member of Amah Mutsun Tribal Band 
10:15am – 11:15am [Panel] Archiving Plant Memories: Preserving BIPOC Sovereignty in Garden Spaces
11:15am – 12:00pm Book presentation: Teotihuacan Cuisine
12:00pm – 1:00pm [Panel] Planting Justice: Decolonization, Abolition and Food Systems Change
1:00pm – 2:00pm Keynote: Elsadig Elsheikh, Othering & Belonging Institute, UC Berkeley
2:00pm – 3:00pm Gratitude Ceremony and Conclusion


From Security to Expansion: Framing New Food Categories and Experiences

Friday, April 2nd, 12:15 PM – 1:15 PM (PST)

Margiana Petersen-Rockney is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow at UC Berkeley’s Dept. of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management. Margiana’s current research pillars are 1) agricultural adaptation to climate change, focused on ecologically based farming practices, working landscapes conservation, and gender and generational change in farm and ranch management; and 2) inequity and local control using the case of cannabis re-criminalization efforts by county governments in California. She has published across disciplines from ecology, to history, to public policy. Before academia, Margiana worked in several non-profits, primarily with immigrant and refugee farmers, ran a diversified vegetable and pastured livestock farm, and was a community organizer with new farmers and founder of the Young Farmer Network.

PRESENTING: Process matters: diversifying farming systems produces more just and sustainable adaptive capacity than simplification

Miguel Cuj is an anthropology Ph.D. student of Maya descent at Vanderbilt University. He has a Nutrition degree from San Carlos University, which was supported by the Maya Educational Foundation scholarship program in Guatemala. He has worked in several projects in rural Guatemala with Maya population. Also, Miguel has a Master of Arts in Latin American Studies and a certificate in Global Health at Vanderbilt University. Miguel has an interest in food, health, and cultural issues in rural Guatemala; He also has focused on nutrition, culture, and language. His research interests are food anthropology, nutrition, K’iche Maya food, and bio-communicability in health.

PRESENTING: Beyond Physical Metrics: a Cultural Approach of the Biomedical Categories of Child Growth Nutrition Standards

Helen Guo is a third-year undergraduate studying BS Conservation and Resource Studies at UC Berkeley, also minoring in Education. She is especially passionate about dialogues surrounding food systems intersecting with issues around power, privileges, and culture. Growing up a foodie in northern China and coming to Berkeley for college, she recognizes the complex interplay between her engagement with food systems and her various identities and relationships with food. Engaging in food-related social activities and community projects (such as the UC Gill Tract Community Farm) further cultivated her curiosity in the connections between culture and identities as a food systems participant, as well as how to leverage these connections for more positive changes.

PRESENTING: Towards More Listening, Compassion and Respect: Exploring Personal and Social Engagement with Food Movements through Food Cultures

Raspando Coco: A Screening and Discussion

Friday, April 2nd, 1:15 PM – 2:00 PM (PST)

ABOUT RASPANDO COCO: Raspando coco is an award-winning short documentary (31 mins, Spanish with English subtitles) about the culinary and medicinal traditions of Afro-Ecuadorians. The film documents the health impacts and culinary traditions surrounding the coconut, as remembered and experienced by Afro-Ecuadorians in the coast of Ecuador.

FILMMAKER: Pilar Egüez Guevara, PhD is an Ecuadorian cultural anthropologist, writer and filmmaker. She holds a PhD in cultural anthropology from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. In 2012, she co-founded and currently directs Comidas que Curan, an independent education initiative and film distributor dedicated to research and promote traditional foods and knowledge through ethnography and film. She directed and produced Raspando coco (Scraping Coconuts).

MODERATOR: Veronica Vargas specializes in food studies, focusing on the social aspects that determine food consumption decisions, such as the construction of moralities and power relations crisscrossing the sensorial aspects of food. She is an experienced policymaker and consultant in nutrition and food sovereignty who has worked for the Ecuadorian Ministry of Health, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), among other UN Agencies, governmental institutions and civil society organizations. 

Cultivating Solidarity: Garden Worlding Across Fields

Friday, April 2nd, 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM (PST)
08/28/18 Medford, MA-
LinkedIn Photo booth at the graduate student resource fair on Tuesday, August 28, 2018 from in Alumnae Lounge on Tufts Medford Campus. Photos by Jake Belcher

Melissa Gordon is in her last semester of a dual master’s degree program at Tufts University, studying Urban Planning and Food and Agricultural Policy. She studied geography in undergrad and previously worked helping folks apply for SNAP at Boston-area health centers. In past summers she has interned at Food First in Oakland and on an organic farm outside Boston. Her academic interests focus on land and food justice in the U.S., policy, and spatial analysis. A lifelong New Englander, she loves to hike, travel, and enjoy food, and she hopes to explore those pleasures in California in a post-graduation move.

PRESENTING: BIPOC Farmers and Farmland Access in Massachusetts

Timothy Herrera is a 5th year doctoral candidate in the department of anthropology at the University of Oregon with a food studies specialization. He is engaged in issues of environmental justice and food justice especially among Latinx, Indigenous,  and Immigrant communities.

PRESENTING: Carework as Well-being: Latinx Immigrant Community Gardening and Practices of Hope and Support

Sayuri Alwis is a third-year undergraduate student majoring in Environmental Science at the University of California, Santa Cruz. They are from Folsom, California and loves to spend time exploring outside or with their cat Artichoke. They are also a Global Food Initiative Fellow currently working on a project involving increasing representation of the Latinx community in agricultural spaces in the Salinas/Santa Cruz area.

CO-PRESENTING: Solidarity in the food system? Insights among South Asian and Mexican immigrants

Aysha Peterson is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in Environmental Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Their research focuses on intersecting struggles for economic and environmental justice in the intensive agricultural landscapes throughout California’s Central Coast region. Aysha also runs Grounded Organics LLC, a small-scale produce distribution business that collaborates with small-scale organic farmers in Salinas, CA.

CO-PRESENTING: Solidarity in the food system? Insights among South Asian and Mexican immigrants

(Un)bounded Food Histories: Towards Sovereignty and Resistance

Friday, April 2nd, 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM (PST)

Luis Vidal Jacobo is a fourth-year Biochemistry undergraduate at the University of California, Riverside who was awarded the Research in Science and Engineering internship where he focused on using CRISPR/Cas9 for gene expression research on Arabidopsis thalianaHe moved on to conduct research in Bioengineering at UCR to develop new methods for identifying counterfeit medications to prevent adverse effects within low-income communities. Currently, he is working towards applying to the UCR School of Medicine where he will continue his education and efforts of improving public health in the Inland Empire.

PRESENTING: Measuring Food Insecurity within the Indigenous, Black, and Hispanic/Latinx Communities in a University

Nohely Guzman is a Bolivian student focused on the expansion of Chinese capital in the Amazon from an Indigenous feminist geographical perspective. She is completing her Master’s degree in Latin American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, and will begin her doctoral studies in Geography this Fall. She is the author of the book “Chinese capitalism in the Amazon: Disposable bodies behind three infrastructure projects in Bolivia” (2018), and more recently has co-authored the book “Amazon under siege: neoliberal-agro-industrial regime at the southern border. Bolivia-Brazil (2000-2019)” (2020). 

PRESENTING: Land, Agroindustry, and GMO crops: social-popular conflicts in Mother Earth’s Bolivia

Benjamin Fields is a first-year PhD student in the Department of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. His current research interests are in the sociology of health and development, specifically looking at the institutionalization of diet and its subsequent effects on health in African American and Sub-Saharan African communities.

PRESENTING: Turbulent from 1619: the Constant Changing Food Situation for African Americans

Bridget Gustafson will display video testimonials of three farmers from Natchitoches, Louisiana. The interviews feature Kevin Walker, Elvin Shields and Donna Isaacs, who will discuss how gardening was an act of resistance employed by their elders, and what is being done now to combat the poverty and food insecurity.

Elizabeth Hoover, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, UC Berkeley

Friday, April 2nd, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM (PST)

Elizabeth Hoover researches on Native American environmental health and food sovereignty movements. Dr. Hoover is the recent author of The River is In Us: Fighting Toxins in a Mohawk Community, (University of Minnesota Press, 2017), an ethnographic exploration of Akwesasne Mohawks’ response to Superfund contamination and environmental health research. Dr. Hoover also co-edited, with Devon Mihesuah, Indigenous Food Sovereignty in the United States: Restoring Cultural Knowledge, Protecting Environments, and Regaining Health (University of Oklahoma Press, 2019). She has also published articles about food sovereignty, environmental reproductive justice in Native American communities, the cultural impact of fish advisories on Native communities, tribal citizen science, and health social movements. She is a board member of the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance and of the Slow Food Turtle Island regional association and has worked with the Mohawk organization Kanenhi:io Ionkwaienthon:hakie.

Land acknowledgement and opening remarks

Saturday, April 3rd, 10:00 AM – 10:15 AM (PST)

Julisa Lopez is a member of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band (AMTB) and the AMTB Youth Group. She is also a Social Psychology PhD candidate at the University of Michigan. Broadly, her research explores how social representations of Indigenous identity shapes perceptions about Indigenous people, and the related outcomes. Her goal is to be a social justice scholar who creates change by uplifting the voices of Indigenous communities. Julisa will begin the Biomigrations conference with opening remarks and a land acknowledgment.

Archiving Plant Memories: Preserving BIPOC Sovereignty in Garden Spaces

Saturday, April 3rd, 10:15 AM – 11:15 AM (PST)

Tracy Fenix (they/she) is a native genderfluid borderland Tejana who focuses on practicing and continuously learning ancestral Indigenous plant-based knowledge, and activating and honoring archival cultural memory and public space preservation within BIPOC communities. They are the Artist Engagement & Archive Manager at Visual AIDS where they’ve been emotionally supporting and sharing archival and community resources with positive artists throughout the pandemic. In their free time, they are a volunteer garden coordinator / member of Cooper Street Garden in Bushwick, where they hold intimate and socially distant space with the community.  They center deep care and intergenerational trauma healing through responsive listening, transparency and nourishing eco-sensual relationships to people, places and shared collective public knowledge. 

Mayra Martinez is an artist with a deep concentration in gardening. Her budding relationship with plants led her to become a Texas Master Gardener in 2016, volunteering her time in local community gardens and botanical gardens, gaining practice and sharing her observations in plant caretaking with anyone interested.  She started Everything Living in 2017, where she creates resin jewelry with pressed plants that are grown in her garden, naturally dyed clothing, and offers services like water-wise landscaping, edible garden construction, and plant-based art workshops. Presently she is helping establish food security in her community by building garden beds for her neighbors and guiding them through gardening with the Southside Community Garden in Fort Worth, Texas. You can find out more about Mayra’s work on Instagram and on her website:

Fine Art Destination Wedding Photography – Worldwide

Gerard Volel’s horticulture journey began in a New Jersey home garden. Alongside his parents, he learned how to cultivate a range of crops. These days he mostly works alone, yet he and his father still compete to see who can grow the best crops. As of August, Gerard has been working for himself full time. He is the sole proprietor of Brooklyn Plant Dad, a gardening company that offers a rage of horticulture services. In the off-season Gerard travels. More recently he’s spent time in Japan and Hawaii. While in Japan he studied the art of Bonsai from a Master. In Hawaii he ate avocados from trees while restoring someone’s landscape.

Odalys Burgoa is a Mexican mixed media artist and gender fluid spirit from the Bronx, New York (Lenape Territory). Their pronouns are she/he and they. Their art focuses on community, identity and revolves around story-telling. They are also a curator of experiences and safe art spaces. They steward Anthony Ave Community garden with the mission to create a safe space for all and to focus on community building, celebrating and healing our communities

Roy Baizan is a Chicanx documentary photographer and arts educator from the Bronx whose work focuses on music, community, and family. Shortly after graduating from the International Center of Photography’s Teen Programing he became a Teaching Assistant where he teaches photography to youth across the city. He has since worked for The Bronx Documentary Center, The Point, The Bronx River Art Center, and ICP continuing to pass forward the opportunities that were awarded to him.

*English-Spanish translation will be available during this session*

BOOK PRESENTATION: Teotihuacan Cuisine

Saturday, April 3rd, 11:15 AM – 12:00 PM (PST)

Alberto Peralta de Legarreta is a Research Professor in the Department of Tourism and Gastronomy at the Universidad Anáhuac México. Doctor in History and Ethnohistory from the National School of Anthropology and History with 20 years of teaching experience in subjects related to Mexico’s history, turistic heritage and culture of Mexico. Author of Cultura Gastronómica en la Mesoamérica prehispánica (2018), La mesa de todos: Historia de la gastronomía callejera en la Ciudad de México (2021), El Chilangonario (2012), Chile para todos (Algarabía, 2014) and ¿A quién no le gusta el chile? (2017)

Ariadna Raquel Campos Quezada is a PhD student in the Department of International Tourism at the Universidad Anáhuac, México Norte. She has a master’s degree in Tourism Studies from the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico. Her publications are related to food culture and the participation of Indigenous communities in tourism and gastronomy, especially in Michoacán, Mexico. Ariadna also currently collaborates as a technical advisor with the Red Indígena de Turismo de México  A.C. (Indigenous Tourism Network of Mexico).

Oliver Saldaña is a Research Professor in social sciences and tourism at the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México, Centro Universitario Valle de Teotihuacán, specializing in cultural heritage, sociological studies and local development.

*Spanish-English translation will be available during this session*

Planting Justice: Decolonization, Abolition and Food Systems Change

Saturday, April 3rd, 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM (PST)

In this panel presentation, members of the staff and board of directors from Planting Justice will share their perspectives and experiences working towards decolonization and abolition through food systems activism by sharing food sovereignty movement histories, lessons from developing, and implementing their food justice curriculum.

Nazshonii Brown-Almaweri is a STEM educator and mechanical design engineer working on both land and office projects. She is passionate about STEAM education and advocates for exposure and opportunities for underrepresented groups, especially Black and Native young women.

Maricela Perez is a Nursery Technician at Planting Justice. She has lived in Oakland for over 10 years and is originally from Jalisco, Mexico. She is the proud mother of 4. She feels blessed to have a job at the Planting Justice Nursery, in the neighborhood where she lives with her family. She is grateful to the kindness of her friends in her community who connected her to this work when she was struggling to make ends meet. BeforePlanting Justice she worked in restaurants and worked nights cleaning the coliseum after A’s games. She suffered greatly after her husband was deported from the United States and her new work and friendships at Planting Justice have helped pull her out of a deep depression. She is so thankful for all the support Planting Justice has given her.

Maya Salsedo.

In high school Maya attended a food justice internship where she learned about the corporate food system. It was a transformational experience the first time Maya was able to make sense of the situation she found herself in: eating instant ramen served by a single parent who worked as chef at a farm-to-table restaurant. Maya then became the first Youth Organizer for Rooted in Community (RIC) national network earning the 2012 Brower Youth Award for her work on the Youth Food Bill of Rights; Maya continued organizing with RIC while studying Ethnic Studies and Political Legal Economic Analysis at Mills College. Maya is a queer multiethnic parent. Maya recognizes that globalizing racialized industrial agriculture is what stole her African ancestors to the US and what pushed her Puerto Rican family to Hawaiis sugar cane fields at the turn of the 20th century. Maya also recognizes that healing with the land is our way out this mess.

sol mercado is a nursery technician at planting justice. She was born in puerto rico but was raised in pittsburg, california. sol was formerly incarcerated at a young age, but is now working at planting justice where she is around nature all the time. Today what matters the most to me is her family. She appreciates her freedom and not ever taking things for granted.

CO-MODERATOR: Haleh Zandi is a mother, land-based activist, co-founder and director at Planting Justice. For the past 10 years, she has been organizing across prison walls to support people impacted by mass incarceration as they return home to community. Haleh’s approach towards food sovereignty particularly draws critical connections between the United States’ dependence upon fossil fuels within the modern colonial food system and the unjust U.S. militarization of the Middle East. Prior to founding Planting Justice, Haleh worked for Peace Action West in Berkeley and with the Women of Color Resource Center in Oakland. She received her BA at UC Santa Cruz and an MA at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. Haleh is of Persian and Norwegian heritage, and as a settler in the occupied territories of the Ohlone people, she is committed to honoring their leadership and rights to this land.

CO-MODERATOR: Marcelo Garzo Montalvo (he/they), PhD, is an Indigenous (Mapuche), Latinx (Chilenx) musician, danzante (ceremonial dancer), and Ethnic Studies scholar-activist. They are Visiting Assistant Professor of Latinx Studies at Harvard University and the Coordinator of Indigenous Technologies at the Berkeley Center for New Media. Marcelo has served on the Board of Directors for Planting Justice for over 10 years, as well as worked on staff as part of the Education team. His cultural work, research and activism focus on decolonization and inter-generational, inter-cultural healing.

Planting Justice is a community-based organization based in different parts of Huichin (SF East Bay) committed to food sovereignty, economic justice and community healing. They work to address the structural inequalities embedded in the industrialized food system one garden at a time. In the last 10 years, the Planting Justice team has built over 450 edible gardens throughout the Bay Area, empowering hundreds of people to grow their own food. Now, they’re cultivating urban farms and training centers that will dramatically increase the scope and scale of this work. By building a local, sustainable food system, they can create thousands of green jobs. By investing in food workers, they can reinvigorate our local economy, increasing access to nutritious food AND meaningful employment. They support the well-being of marginalized communities and are committed to suturing access to the resources that support holistic health through providing communities with equal access to nutritious affordable food, dignified jobs, education, green space, safety & mobility.

*English-Spanish translation will be available during this session*

Elsadig Elsheikh, Othering & Belonging Institute, UC Berkeley

Saturday, April 3rd, 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM (PST)

Elsadig Elsheikh is the Director of the Global Justice Program at the Othering & Belonging Institute, where he oversees the program’s projects on corporate power, food systems, forced migration, inclusiveness index, Islamophobia, and human rights mechanisms; and manages the Shahidi Project, and the Nile Project.

Elsadig’s research interests focus on the themes and socio-political dynamics related to state and citizenship; race and corporate power; and measuring social policies of exclusion and inclusion. Elsadig authored and co-authored a number of articles, essays, and reports on corporate power and the food systemIslamophobiaforced migrationinclusiveness indexTrans-Pacific PartnershipUN human rights mechanisms, and Sudanese politics.

Gratitude Ceremony and Conclusion

Saturday, April 3rd, 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM (PST)

Jesús I’x Nazario will help lead the Gratitude Ceremony and end the conference with the help of community organizers and Indigenous graduate students by honoring lessons learned during the Biomigrations conference. This event will be participatory and filled with intentional space for connections between panelists and participants.

Jesús is the main organizer for the Biomigrations conference and is currently a first-year PhD student in Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Jesús is a Nahua scholar researching Indigenous food and political sovereignty in Mexico and in the United States.