You are here

Engaging & Empowering our Communities to Transform the Food System

Malaika Bishop, Denisa Livingston, and Karen Washington


Our communities and youth continue to rise to protect each other’s health and the planet. How do we grow in this momentum and better empower each other to heal and transform our food and farming system - perhaps beyond what we could even imagine? Hear from leaders in ecological farming, food justice, education, and policy and their powerful visions and work.


Malaika Bishop has been working to create sustainable and just food systems for over 20 years. Since 2013 she has been co-directing Sierra Harvest, which educates, inspires and connects Nevada County Families to fresh, local, seasonal foods. She began her career by training young change makers from around the world, and later co-founded People’s Grocery, a food justice non-profit in Oakland. When she moved back to her hometown in Nevada County, she worked on several small organic farms, managed a farm that served a high school cafeteria, and served on the board of BriarPatch Food Co-op.  Malaika is the mother of 2 boys and maintains a large home garden and orchard. Malaika is a recipient of the Jefferson Award for Public Service, and she was chosen by Utne Reader, San Francisco Magazine and Organic Style Magazine as a young visionary and environmental leader


Denisa Livingston is empowering Navajo communities to take control of food policy and lead a movement toward food sovereignty and social change on the Navajo Nation. Through her work with Diné Community Advocacy Alliance, she spearheaded the Healthy Diné Nation Act of 2014 with her community members, introducing a 2% additional sales tax for unhealthy foods, the revenue of which goes to fund community-based and community-directed health and wellness. A complementary law eliminates sales tax on healthy foods with a special emphasis on cultural foods. Denisa is also the Slow Food International Indigenous Councilor of the Global North. She will discuss leveraging the skills, expertise, and time of our community members, especially youth, to connect us to empowerment and purpose. She will share how intergenerational engagement and synergy can transform farming and food systems for the better. Her work emphasizes creating health and wellness opportunities driven by ancestral knowledge and practices that serve as a promising guide to a sustainable future.


Karen Washington has spent decades promoting urban farming as a way for all New Yorkers to access fresh, locally grown food. She helped launch City Farms Market as a member of the La Familia Verde Community Garden Coalition, co-founded Black Urban Growers (BUGS)—an organization of volunteers committed to building networks and community support for growers in both urban and rural settings—and founded Rise & Root Farm in April 2014. In her address Karen asks, “What will the next generation of farmers look like?” Right now, we have an aging population of farmers. Over the past several years there has been growing interest in young people wanting to farm. Many come from non-farming backgrounds, some are switching careers, and yet what is most exciting is diversity. If we are to advocate for a fair and just food system, then the people who are growing our food must be allotted those same values. Join us to hear what a just and sustainable food system should look like.




Track and Session Info

Equity, Food Justice & Sovereignty
Keynote | 8:00 pm PT

Date and Location

Merrill Hall

Karen Washington

Karen Washington
Presenter Affiliation: 
Rise & Root Farm
Karen Washington is a farmer and  community activist, striving to make the New York City a better place to live. As a community gardener and board member of the New York Botanical Gardens, she worked with Bronx neighborhoods to turn empty lots into community gardens. As an advocate, and former president of the New York City Community Garden Coalition, she stood up and spoke out for garden protection and preservation. As a member of the La Familia Verde Garden Coalition, she helped launch a City Farms Market, bringing fresh vegetables to the community. Karen is a board member of Farm School NYC, leading workshops on growing food and food justice across the country, Soul Fire Farm and organization committed to undoing racism and injustice in the food system and Why Hunger a grassroots support organization aimed at ending hunger. In 2010, Co- Founded Black Urban Growers (BUGS) an organization supporting growers in both urban and rural settings, and most recently in 2019 co-founded Black Farmer Fund aimed at supporting black farms and businesses with capital and resources in New York State.In 2012, Ebony magazine voted her one of their 100 most influential African Americans in the country and in 2014 was the recipient of the James Beard Leadership Award. Since retiring from Physical Therapy in 2014, Karen is Co-owner/Farmer at Rise & Root Farm in Chester New York. 



Thank you to our EcoFarm 2021 sponsors!