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Keynotes

All keynote presentations will be interpreted to Spanish

Wednesday, January 18 | 8:00-9:45pm PT 

Healing Grounds Climate, Justice, and the Deep Roots of Regenerative Farming

A powerful movement is happening in farming today—farmers are reconnecting with their roots to fight climate change. Indigenous, Black, Latinx, and Asian American farmers are reviving their ancestors’ methods of growing food—techniques long suppressed by the industrial food system. These farmers are restoring native prairies, nurturing beneficial fungi, and enriching soil health. While feeding their communities and revitalizing cultural ties to land, they are steadily stitching ecosystems back together and repairing the natural carbon cycle. This is truly regenerative agriculture – not merely a set of technical tricks for storing CO2 in the ground, but a holistic approach that values diversity in both plants and people. Cultivating this kind of regenerative farming requires a reckoning with the discriminatory agricultural history of the United States. Ultimately, it also requires dismantling power structures that have blocked many farmers of color from owning land or building wealth. In this session, we’ll hear from two of the women featured in the new book Healing Grounds, Aidee Guzman and Latrice Tatsey. The conversation will be moderated by the book’s author, UC Santa Barbara professor, Liz Carlisle.

Liz Carlisle

Liz is an Assistant Professor in the Environmental Studies Program at UC Santa Barbara, where she teaches courses on food and farming. Born and raised in Montana, she got hooked on agriculture while working as an aide to organic farmer and U.S. Senator Jon Tester, which led to a decade of research and writing collaborations with farmers in her home state. She has written three books about regenerative farming and agroecology: Lentil Underground (2015), Grain by Grain (2019, with co-author Bob Quinn), and most recently, Healing Grounds: Climate, Justice, and the Deep Roots of Regenerative Farming (2022). She is also a frequent contributor to both academic journals and popular media outlets, focusing on food and farm policy, incentivizing soil health practices, and supporting new entry farmers. She holds a Ph.D. in Geography, from UC Berkeley, and a B.A. in Folklore and Mythology, from Harvard University. Prior to her career as a writer and academic, she spent several years touring rural America as a country singer.

Aidee Guzman

Aidee’s research with immigrant farmers in the Central Valley demonstrates the connection between aboveground and belowground biodiversity. Her continuing research involves examining agroecological approaches that could harness biodiversity and ecosystem functioning for improved agricultural resilience. Specifically, she plans to investigate biotic interactions in soils that could improve crop tolerance to drought and mediate carbon allocation and resource exchange belowground. The overarching goal of her work is to support farmers, especially those who are historically underserved, through research, education, and outreach that builds on their innovations and demonstrates ecological pathways to agricultural resilience.

Latrice Tatsey (Blackfeet)

Latrice is an ecologist and cattle producer who advocates for tribally-directed bison restoration and regenerative cattle grazing. Currently, she is a graduate student in Land Resources and Environmental Sciences studying how the reintroduction of in-nii (American Bison) contributes to changes in soil characteristics. After near extinction due to forages by cattle operations and settlement on the great plains, the in-nii (American Bison) are slowly returning to Native American tribes who have the resources to run reintroduction programs. Researching how the return of the in-nii (American Bison) will influence soil, plant, water, energy, and mineral cycles shows the relationship the in-nii (American Bison) have to the land. Latrice wants to continue to conduct research involving land and creating ways to be better land stewards so that we can protect Mother Earth for future generations.

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Thursday, January 19 | 1:30-2:45pm PT

What Does Water Want?: Rethinking and Recreating Farm Based Water Management

Either too much or too little water is a feature of the weather in California, and one which is making farming increasingly difficult. Rather than dwell on the depth of the problem, this panel will propose that we reconsider how we think about water in rural and urban landscapes, as well as manage it more wisely. Author Erica Gies will introduce the concept of Slow Water, arguing that the way we manage water flows is counterproductive in this era of climate change. The other panelists will discuss innovative solutions being developed by California farmers in the Central Valley to promote wildlife habitat, recharge aquifers, and produce bountiful crops in the face of an ever-prolonged drought.

Erica Gies

Erica is the author of Water Always Wins: Thriving in an Age of Drought and Deluge, which is about “Slow Water” innovations that are helping us adapt to the increasing floods and droughts brought by climate change. An award-winning independent journalist and National Geographic Explorer, she writes about water, climate change, plants, and animals for Scientific American, the New York Times, Nature, National Geographic, the Guardian, and other outlets. She co-founded two environmental news startups, Climate Confidential and This Week in Earth.    Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Erica spent childhood vacations camping and hiking in state and national parks and swimming in any body of water she came across. These outside hours and days left indelible imprints: the rushing sound of wind in pines, water striders gliding atop mountain creeks, towering redwoods, the pattern and play of crashing waves, the spicy smell of chaparral on a sunny afternoon. She remains an ardent fan of critters, plants, hydrology, wilderness, and hiking. She lives in San Francisco and Victoria, British Columbia.

Jacob Katz

Jacob was born with gills. Fascinated with what happened below the water line he grew up fishing every creek, puddle, river and pond he could find. Much to the chagrin, his parents, Jacob misspent his youth chasing fish and ignored his formal education. After guiding in remote Alaska, where he was inspired by the abundance produced in functioning river ecosystems, he was eventually hooked by school, taking a PhD in ecology at the UCD Center for Watershed Sciences. He is now lead Scientist at the conservation non-profit California Trout, where his work on developing ways to get greater fish and wildlife benefit from working landscapes and finding win-win solutions for people and the environment to ensure that California will always be home to wild salmon. Dr. Katz oversees science, planning, and implementation of a portfolio of landscape scale projects focused on the reintegration of river ecosystems into the operations of California’s flood and water infrastructure. He holds a Ph.D. from UC Davis with expertise in river function and fish ecology and is co-founder of the Central Valley Salmon Habitat Partnership and the Floodplains Forward Coalition.

Don Cameron

Since 1987, Don has been the Vice President and General Manager of Terranova Ranch, Inc. located 25 miles southwest of Fresno, California. Terranova farms approximately 7,500 acres, in addition to 1,500 acres custom farmed for other clients. The farm has a mix of conventional, organic and biotech field crops and over 25 different crops are grown on the farm. Don also owns and farms Prado Farms located in Fresno County. Don has served on the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Environmental Farming Act Science Advisory Panel since 2011 and is president of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture. He currently serves as chairman for the California Cotton Alliance, director and past chairman for the California Tomato Growers Association, chairman for McMullin Area Groundwater Sustainability Agency and director of the Raisin City Water District. In 2020, he was appointed to the Governor’s Task Force For Business and Jobs Recovery; Operations Committee and currently serves on the DPR Sustainable Pest Management Task Force. Don holds a degree in Biology from California State University, Fresno.

 

 

Friday, January 20 | 8:30-10:00am PT

Successful Organic Farmers

An long standing EcoFarm tradition is the keynote panel of Successful Organic Farmers who share their stories and insights with us. Learn what these farmers do, why they do it, and what they’ve learned along the way!

 

Jim Churchill

Churchill Orchard, Ojai Valley, CA

Churchill Orchard is 17 acres of specialty tangerines and avocados in Ojai, CA. Personnel are Jim Churchill, proprietor; Lisa Brenneis, strategy, art director, and software; and Mike Sullivan, farmer. The orchard transitioned to organic starting in 2004. The transition was driven by ethical and practical considerations: (a) organic aligned with their values and (b) they saw Cuties being planted in mind-staggering numbers in the Central Valley, and figured they needed to have a market channel that would be exempt from their enormous volumes. Since the pandemic, mail order has become their largest sales channel both by volume of fruit sold and by income. They also continue to service select wholesale customers and the Ojai Farmers' Market. Churchill Orchard’s primary tangerine varieties are Seedless Kishu, Pixie, and to a lesser extent Page; for avocados they grow mostly hass but sell as many fuertes and bacons as they can. The primary threat to Churchill Orchad’s continued existence is water availability. But they “persevere because it's a living and it's a life.”

 

Jose Ornelas

Jayleaf, Hollister, CA

From a young age, Jose Ornelas loved to weed, harvest, and conduct administrative work alongside his parents who worked for the Salinas Valley Spring Mix farm throughout the 1980s. He grew up appreciating fresh soil, organic food, and the journey that fruits and vegetables take in order to get to the mouths of hungry individuals. At the age of nineteen, Jose founded Jayleaf Specialties. Jayleaf started as a brokerage firm that consisted of buying and selling Jose’s parents' greens. As Jose’s vision for the company grew and developed over time, Jayleaf soon became a vertically integrated grower, packer, and shipper of organic leafy greens. Every day, Jose strives to meet the demand for his greens in a way that benefits all stakeholders, the environment, public health, and the quality of life of his employees. Ever with an eye toward the future, he is creating a successful organization to better the lives of generations to come.

Kristyn Leach

Namu Farm, Winters, CA

Kristyn grows vegetables and seeds on 4 acres in Winters, CA. Her focus is on adapting Korean Natural Farming principles and practices, as well as culturally significant crop varieties to increasingly hot and dry conditions. Second Generation Seeds, a project she founded and now collectively organizes with other farmers, works to preserve, improve and evolve beloved crops of the Asian diaspora through a community rooted approach.

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Saturday, January 21 | 10:30-11:45am PT

2040 Visions: Youth Leaders Speak Out

From Ventura County’s strawberry fields to the rivers of the redwoods, this panel brings together two inspiring young visionary activists who will share with us their work to protect farmworkers from pesticides and to restore the Klamath River to its natural state. They will share their stories, and identify how we can work together across generations and across cultural divides toward a more sustainable and equitable California. Stay for Saturday’s keynote panel, and leave the conference more inspired than ever.

Adam Vega

Adam Vega serves as the Executive Director of Transition to Organic: Tierra Viva a community based organization located in Ventura County, California, which is the fastest warming county in the nation. With more than 5 million pounds of pesticides applied each year, 1 in 4 homes are located within a half-mile or less of toxic pesticides, putting farmworkers and their families at the greatest risk of long term acute exposure.

As we know, the best solutions come from those most impacted by the problems they face. Adam works with this group of local residents, organic farmers, plant protection professionals, authors and artists to organize and grow community assets.  Working alongside the people most impacted by these inadequate environmental policies, he strives to build pride, power, and equity within the community.  By centering the indigenous bio-cultural wealth of farmworker communities, we can better understand how the soil holds the solution in transitioning towards a more regenerative and resilient food system.

Sammy Gensaw

Sammy Gensaw, III, is a Yurok Native, the Director of the Ancestral Guard, Artist, Yurok Language Speaker, Singer, Writer, Cultural/Political/Environmental Activist, Regalia Maker, Mediator, Youth Leader & Fisherman.  Sammy is the founder and director of the Ancestral Guard.  It is a community organizing network developed to encourage an Indigenous mindset and engage the people who live in our ancestral territories to respect, become a part of and restore a natural balance between people, and the environment we all share.  Coming from the villages of Oregon up the Klamath River, Sammy grew up on the river and yet resides at Terwer Riffle in the Glen at Klamath, CA on the Yurok reservation. His work and focus are strongly rooted in the strengths and activities of his skills as a Yurok practitioner and cultural bearer.

Ahna Kruzic

Ahna Kruzic (she/her) joined Regenerative Agriculture Foundation as Associate Director in March 2022. Ahna's work focuses on regenerative agriculture and intersectional farm and racial justice. Originally from rural Iowa, Ahna currently splits her time between Centerville, Iowa, and Oakland, CA. Prior to Ahna's role at RAF, she most recently served as Pesticide Action Network’s Communications and Media Director.  She holds a Master of Science in sustainable agriculture and sociology from Iowa State University, and has worked as community organizer, researcher, coalition-builder, publisher, communicator, and non-profit administrator.

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