“Food Futures: Ancestral and Contemporary Methods for Transforming Food Systems”

The Food Institute Graduate Council (FIGC) at Berkeley presents the 3rd Annual Food Systems Conference—“Food Futures: Ancestral and Contemporary Methods for Transforming Food Systems.

Friday, April 7: 12:30pm to 5:00pm (PST), Conference on Zoom (Friday)

Saturday, April 8: 11:00am to 6:00pm (PST), in-person at UC Berkeley (Saturday)

To register for Day 1, click here.

To register for Day 2, click here.

The Food Institute Graduate Council (FIGC) at Berkeley is excited to invite graduate student scholars, community members, and artists to submit proposal abstracts of speeches, scholarly papers, or in-progress film/mixed media works to discuss at our third annual Food Systems Conference, titled “Food Futures: Ancestral and Contemporary Methods for Transforming Food Systems.”

The term “Food Futures” emphasizes the relational and material possibilities of food in a climate changing
world. Thus, the Food Futures conference will focus on alternative methods to understand food. Discussions
will look beyond Industrial agricultural practices, which may inspire change in Food Systems across all
Global Directions. A few topics that align with the theme of Food Futures include Indigenous and Black
futurities, agroecology, and value-based commodity chains. Additionally, the Food Futures conference seeks
to bridge communities of scholars, community members, artists, and policy makers through varying critiques
and discussions of food system practices and methods that interrupt existing systems of oppression including
colonization, heteropatriarchy, and capitalism, to conjure alternative food systems.

The Conference will include:

  • Two Keynote Speakers
    • Laura Harjo, PhD
    • Charisma Acey, PhD
  • Three Panels
    • Alternative Food Networks for Agroecological Transitions and Good Living
    • Sourcing Sustainably: Perspective on contemporary food gathering practices
    • Food Justice Networks: Decolonizing Foodways and Land Stewardship
  • A Movie screening: Gather Film

Registration for the Food Futures conference is free to all participants and attendees. Complimentary food and beverage available from 11am to 12pm.

This conference is organized by the Food Institute Graduate Council (FIGC) at Berkeley, and sponsored by the Berkeley Food Institute (BFI), the Graduate Assembly (GA), the Green Initiative Fund (TGIF), the Native American Studies center, the Multicultural Community Center (MCC), and the Big C Fund. Inquiries to FIGC can be made via: figc.berkeley@gmail.com

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Spanish to English interpretation will be provided on April 7, 2023. C.A.R.T Captioning will also be provided. If you require any other accommodation for effective communication in order to fully participate in this virtual event, please contact FIGC (figc.berkeley@gmail.com) at least 7–10 days in advance.

Conference Schedule            (All times in PST)

Day 1 Friday, April 7th
12:30pm – 12:50pm Introduction from FIGC Conference Committee
1:00pm – 2:15pm [Panel] Alternative Food Networks for Agroecological Transitions and Good Living
2:15pm – 2:30pm  Break
2:30pm – 3:45pm [Panel] Procuring Sustainable Foods
3:45pm – 4:00pm Break
4:00pm – 5:00pm [Keynote] Laura Harjo (Mvskoke Creek), Native American Studies, Oklahoma University
Day 2 Saturday, April 8th
11:00am – 12:00pm Lunch at the Native Community Center 
12:00pm – 12:30pm Introduction to Conference and Multicultural Community Center
12:30pm – 1:45pm [Panel] Food Justice Networks: Decolonizing Foodways and Land Stewardship 
1:45pm – 2:00pm Break
2:00pm – 3:30pm [Film Screening] Gather
3:30pm – 4:30pm [Keynote] Charisma Acey, College of Environmental Design, UC Berkeley
5:00pm – 6:00pm Reception at the Native Community Center (Anthony Hall building)


Alternative Food Networks for Agroecological Transitions and Good Living

Friday, April 7th, 1:00pm – 2:15 pm

PRESENTING: Entre milpas y chinampas: el cuidado del patrimonio biocultural de zonas de conservación de la Ciudad de México.

Dulce María Espinosa de la Mora es una Etnóloga por la Escuela Nacional de Antropología con estudios de maestría en Antropología en el Instituto de Investigaciones Antropológicas de la UNAM. Actualmente se encuentra culminando estudios de doctorado en la ENAH. Es docente desde hace 10 años. En su trabajo como parte de la sociedad civil es socia fundadora del Colectivo Zacahuitzco, que desde hace 8 años dedica sus esfuerzos a mejorar la alimentación de familias consumidoras de la ciudad de México, colaborando con diversos colectivos urbanos, campesinos de diversos estados de la República Mexicana, incluyendo zonas de conservación de la CDMX.  Forma parte de la Campaña Sin Maíz no hay País, un colectivo que trabaja empujando una agenda que contribuya a la soberanía alimentaria.


PRESENTING: El papel de las iniciativas ciudadanas en la construcción de sistemas alimentarios sostenibles en la Ciudad de México

Luis Bracamontes Nájera es un Agrónomo y maestro en Desarrollo Rural. Actualmente cursa el doctorado en Ciencias de Sostenibilidad en la UNAM. Desde hace más de diez años ha colaborado en proyectos de investigación-acción en temas como agroecología, economía solidaria, derechos de los pueblos indígenas, instituciones comunitarias y sistemas alimentarios. Es miembro del colectivo gestor de la Cooperativa La Imposible.



PRESENTING: La alimentación tiene rostro de mujer: prácticas sostenedoras en las Redes Alimentarias Alternativas de México y Argentina

Valeria de León Roblero es una Maestra en desarrollo y cooperación internacional y licenciada en ingeniería logística. Es parte del comité coordinador del mercado “Tianguis Alternativo de Puebla” y de la asociación civil DASAC. Ha trabajado desde y para colectivos y proyectos comunitarios vinculados a la economía social-solidaria, feminismo y agroecología.



PRESENTING: Construyendo transiciones agroecológicas desde las movilizaciones socioambientales en Xalapa, Veracruz, México.

Miguel Escalone es un Biólogo por la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, con maestría en Microbiología de suelos por la Universidad de Colima, Master en Agroecología por la Universidad Internacional de Andalucía, Experto en ganadería y agricultura ecológica por la Universidad Internacional de Andalucía, Doctor en Agroecología, sociología y desarrollo rural sostenible, por la Universidad de Córdoba en España, profesor de tiempo completo de la facultad de ciencias agrícolas, de la Universidad Veracruzana, colabora y participa con iniciativas vinculadas a la producción y consumo de alimentos agroecológicos, entre ellos el Tianguis agroecológico Xalapa, fundado en el año 2003, la Red de Agricultura Urbana y Periurbana de Xalapa fundada en el años 2013 y la Plataforma Metropolitana de formación en Agroecología de Xalapa, desde el año 2019.

Procuring Sustainable Foods

Friday, April 7th, 2:30pm – 3:45 pm

PRESENTING: Banking On Us: We Eat Where We Live On Land That We Steward

Yvette R. Blair is a public theologian, food justice scholar and international speaker on food justice issues through a theological framework. She has been a featured panelist for Bread For The World’s Global Advocacy Summit, Conversation with the White House and she has presented her work on the systemic injustices of food insecurity at conferences including Rural Women’s Studies Kitchen Table Talk to Global Forum at the University of Guelph in Canada. Her work has also been included in the UN Food Summit and Pan African Women of faith Ecumenical Empowerment Network. 

 She earned degrees from the Univ. of North Texas, Perkins School of Theology, and her Doctor of Ministry from Memphis Theological Seminary. Her work focuses on the intersection of food insecurity, famines, displacement, and gentrification of Black, Latinx, and Indigenous peoples. Her latest book, Scrimpin’ and Scrapin’: The Hardships and Hustle of Women and Food Insecurity in Texas Through a Womanist Lens, invites readers into the conversation about the root causes of food insecurity through a faith lens. It debuted as the #1 new release on Amazon and as the #4 bestseller.  


PRESENTING: The Periodic Table of Food: a global initiative to diversify the foods we eat

Sarah C. Brinkley, Ph.D. is a Postdoctoral Fellow for the Periodic Table of Food Initiative (PTFI) via the Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) within CGIAR. Sarah is a recent graduate of Texas A&M University’s Ph.D. program in the Department of Horticultural Sciences. Her work is informed by a diverse background working internationally in coffee and wine, bolstered by an M.S. degree in chemistry from Tennessee Technological University. Her Ph.D. research used participatory methods to investigate how farming practices impact crop quality. Specifically, her farm-to-cup research narrows the knowledge gap between coffee growers and coffee drinkers. She endeavors to draw complex connection between growing environment, management, plant health, and crop quality. Her perennial goal is to conduct research with diverse, international teams of food systems experts toward a more just and food-secure future.

PRESENTING: Building Social Sustainability in University Food Procurement

Mark Biedlingmaier is a Master in Public Health Candidate at UC Berkeley studying Global Health and Environment, with a specific interest in food systems. In addition to his role as a student, Mark supports sustainable food procurement efforts as a Food, Labor, and Procurement Fellow at the University of California Office of the President. This work is focused on exploring opportunities for improving socially responsible, values-based procurement at the University’s academic campuses and health centers. Before coming to UC Berkeley, Mark was a Special Projects Coordinator at the Semel Healthy Campus Initiative Center at UCLA where he managed a community garden and orchard utilized for skill-based workshops, community building, academic curriculum, and food security. In his free time, Mark enjoys collecting vintage postcards and writing letters to friends and family.

PRESENTING: Regenerative Agriculture, Plant Medicine and Modern Cuisine

Chris Sayegh is the Founder and CEO of The Herbal Chef™ which has become known as the worlds leading Plant Medicine Hospitality platform.  Sayegh was a passionate science and biology student of UC Santa Cruz  who turned to the chemistry of food plant medicine, to feed the intellectual side of his creations.  Among the first professionals to enter the Cannabis industry, Christopher Sayegh has pioneered Cannabis Infused Fine-Dining in an effort to elevate the perception of marijuana and other plant medicine through modern cuisine and experiences.  These activations include art, music, fine wine and top notch ingredients, simultaneously and effortlessly educating his audience while entertaining them with culinary enlightenment.  


Seeds of Mvskoke Futurity: Activating Possibilities for Our Future Relatives

Friday, April 7th, 4:00pm – 5:00 pm

Dr. Laura Harjo is a Muscogee (Creek) scholar, award-winning author, associate professor, and interim chair in Native American Studies at the University of Oklahoma. Her scholarly inquiry focuses on "community." Harjo’s research and teaching centers on three areas: (1) spatial storytelling, (2) anti-violence-informed Indigenous architecture and community planning, and (3) community-based knowledge production. These three areas of inquiry support a larger project of Indigenous futurity. Harjo’s book Spiral to the Stars: Mvskoke Tools of Futurity (University of Arizona Press, 2019) employs Muscogee epistemologies and Indigenous feminisms to offer a community-based practice of futurity. Her book won the 2020 Beatrice Medicine Award for Best Published Monograph and 2021 On the Brinck Book Award + Lecture.

In 2022, she organized with colleagues at the University of Oklahoma Gibbs College of Architecture to create Muscogee (Creek) Tribal Town Futurity: Spatial Storytelling with Emergent Technologies. The exhibition employs Mvskoke futurity tools and technology to understand and represent spatial, sonic, and relational elements of original tribal towns and Mvskoke Futurity. Visitors were able to see the spatial arrangement of two tribal towns-a Mississippian and a Pre-Removal settlement. Past and present geographies are light projected onto the surface of the models. This work seeks to surface past and future emergence geographies—concrete, ephemeral, metaphysical, and virtual—of Muscogee Tribal Towns found in pre-removal Alabama and post-removal Oklahoma.


Food Justice Networks: Decolonizing Foodways and Land Stewardship 

Saturday, April 8th, 12:30 pm – 1:45 pm

PRESENTING: ‘Eating Down Babylon’: A Rastafari Perspective on Food and Decolonization

Solaire Denaud (She/They) is a French and Haitian Ph.D. student in the Comparative Literature Program of the University of California Santa Barbara. Her research interests focus on occurrences of plant-based diets throughout the African Diaspora as well as Black environmentalism. More broadly, she is interested in literary conceptions of ecologies and animal ethics in Caribbean literature and their entanglement with postcolonial and anti-racist resistances.


PRESENTING: Problematizing native maize conservation, the energy-gender nexus and food sovereignty in rural Mexico

María Villalpando is a Mexican international student PhD student in the Energy, Resource, Management Program of the University of California – Berkeley. She is interested in exploring rural and peasant women’s role in the advancement of food sovereignty and in understanding the complex negotiation processes between communities, individuals, and the environment in rural and agricultural communities in Mexico. Her work is motivated by the possibility of co-envisioning pathways for smallholder farmers’ well-being in her home country, Mexico, and in finding ways to articulate different worldviews in search for equitable and just rural livelihoods. She believes in approaching research as an interdisciplinary, grassroots and socially committed practice. 

PRESENTING: No Justice Without Land: The Struggle for Autonomy in the Urban Agriculture Movement of San Diego and Tijuana

Belinda Ramírez, Ph.D., (they/them) received their doctoral degree in sociocultural anthropology from the University of California San Diego and now teach incoming undergraduates in Stanford University’s Civic, Liberal, and Global (COLLEGE) Program. Belinda’s research deals with the social, political, and economic dimensions of urban agriculture and food and sustainability movements. Looking to the future, they are excited to contribute to the transformation of the global food system through agricultural education efforts.

Film Screening: Gather

Saturday, April 8th, 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm



Gather is a 2020 documentary film that gives an intimate portrait of the growing movement amongst Native Americans to reclaim their spiritual, political and cultural identities through food sovereignty, while battling the trauma of centuries of genocide.

Black Futures, Food Futures: Embodying Just Futures through Policy and Activism

Saturday, April 8th, 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm

Dr. Charisma Acey is an Associate Professor in the Department of City and Regional Planning at UC Berkeley, and serves as Faculty Director of the Berkeley Food Institute (BFI) and Research Director of the Institute of Urban and Regional Development. Her work is at the intersection of city and regional planning, food security, and environmental justice. For over twenty years, she has collaborated with communities in the U.S. and globally to develop interventions that improve equitable social and environmental outcomes for vulnerable, marginalized populations. Currently, her research focuses on how California communities are addressing community food insecurity and food injustice through land use planning and environmental justice legislation, building on a 3-year project analyzing the landscape of urban agroecology, resilience and food security in the East Bay. Prior to Berkeley, Professor Acey worked on participatory rezoning for local healthy food systems in Columbus, Ohio, and has managed humanitarian relief and development projects in Africa and Latin America. Ultimately, her work is guided by a commitment to eliminating disparities in access to clean water, safe sanitation and healthy food, poverty reduction, and research justice.

Conclusion and Reception

Saturday, April 8th, 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm

The Conference Committee will give concluding remarks followed by a reception at the Native Community Center starting at 5pm.