Keynote Speakers

Laura Lengnick

Keynote Address: From Fragility to Resilience: Cultivating the Health of Land, People, and Community
Live Spanish Translation
Saturday, Jan. 16 @ 2:00 PM ET 

We live in an era of unprecedented crisis, an age shaped by relentless disruption, a time when many of our most deeply held beliefs are being shaken by events both near and far. These crises come together in our food system to reveal the fragility of a way of life built on the exploitation of land, people, and community. 

American farmland is purchased by global investors looking for a lucrative return. American producers remain challenged by narrow margins even as climate risk increases. Farm and food system workers find themselves thrust to the front lines of a pandemic. Growing numbers of people go hungry as farmers dump milk and plow vegetables back into fields. This disruption plays out against a history of long-standing food insecurity and a national obesity epidemic. The evidence is clear and compelling: the way we eat fuels the fragility of our way of life. 

Although these challenges are daunting, there is both dark and light in this story. We don’t need any more research or any new technologies to put us on a path to a resilient food future – we need a new way of thinking about how to engage our foodsheds. Although many don’t realize it, organic farmers and ranchers, and the people that support them, can show us a new way of living that recognizes the essential truth of life on this planet: our own well-being is inextricably linked to the well-being of others. Organic farming principles that focus on soil health and agro-ecosystem diversity can slow climate change and promote the health of land, people, and community. Organic farming practices like cover crops, minimum till, whole farm management, and the production of whole, nutrient-dense foods for regional markets cultivate the capacity of farm and community to respond, recover, and make changes that can sustain us in the face of disruptions of all kinds. Join scientist, author, activist, and farmer Laura Lengnick as she weaves together resilience thinking with the practical lessons learned from some of America’s best organic farmers and ranchers to share a message of hope in these troubling times.

In addition to the keynote address, Laura is also offering a fireside chat titled “Resilience Thinking for Health” and a two-part workshop for commercial organic farmers titled “Cultivating Resilience with Whole Farm Planning.” 

Laura Lengnick is an award-winning soil scientist who has explored agriculture and food system sustainability through more than 25 years of work as a researcher, policy-maker, educator, activist, and farmer. She is founder and principal at Cultivating Resilience, LLC, an Asheville, NC-based firm that works with organizations of all kinds to integrate resilience thinking into operations, assessment, and strategic planning. Over the last decade, Laura has led federal, state, and local projects exploring agricultural climate solutions that cultivate healthy land, people, and community. The second edition of Laura’s award-winning 2015 book, Resilient Agriculture: Cultivating Food Systems for a Changing Climate (New Society Publishers), will be released in June 2021. You can learn more about Laura and her work at

Banu Subramaniam

Seed Conference Keynote Address: Seeds for a Decolonial Botany
Thursday, Jan. 21 @ 6:00 PM ET

What does it mean to be a feminist botanist? Tracing the colonial roots of botany, I re-imagine a more inclusive and capacious field of botany untethered and decentered from its origins in histories of racism, slavery, and colonialism. Drawing on recent scholarship in the biological sciences, queer ecology, indigenous ecology, and postcolonial and feminist Science and Technology Studies (STS), I show how gender, race, class, sexuality, and nation shape the foundational language, terminology, and theories of modern botany, and how botany remains grounded in the violence of its colonial pasts. Decolonizing Botany is a project that reckons with these difficult origins and lays a roadmap to imagine a new feminist botany that harnesses the power of feminist thought to reimagine the practices of experimental biology.

Banu Subramaniam is Professor of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Trained as a plant evolutionary biologist, Banu’s work engages the feminist studies of science in the practices of experimental biology. Author of Holy Science: The Biopolitics of Hindu Nationalism (University of Washington Press, 2019), Ghost Stories for Darwin: The Science of Variation and the Politics of Diversity (University of Illinois Press, 2014), and coeditor of Feminist Science Studies: A New Generation (Routledge, 2001) and Making Threats: Biofears and Environmental Anxieties (Rowman & Littlefield, 2005) and the forthcoming MEAT!: A Transnational Analysis (Duke University Press 2021), Banu’s current work focuses on decolonizing botany and the relationship of science and religious nationalism in India.

NOFA-NY’s Farmer of the Year, Brian Caldwell

Farmer of the Year Address
Live Spanish Translation
Saturday, Jan. 23 @ 2:00 PM ET 

Brian has been involved in organic agriculture for more than 40 years as an educator, researcher, and farmer. In 1983, he was a founding member of NOFA-NY and served as our first education coordinator from 2002-2005. He was a member of the committee that wrote our first set of certification standards. He spent many years working for Cornell University, as a vegetable and fruit specialist for Cornell Cooperative Extension, and then as field manager for the Cornell Organic Cropping Systems project. He has operated Hemlock Grove Farm, a certified organic farm in West Danby, NY since 1978, and has a deep appreciation for the organic community, as well as an understanding of organic practices and philosophy. Brian was also recently appointed to the National Organic Standards Board. Brian will join us to speak about resilience based on his experience as a farmer, researcher, and educator.