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About the Conference

Dr. Monica White

Keynote Speaker

Dr. Monica M. White is an award-winning scholar and currently serves as an associate professor of Environmental Justice at the University of Wisconsin Madison. She holds a joint appointment in the Department of Community and Environmental Sociology and the Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies. She is the first Black woman to earn tenure in both the College of Agricultural Life Sciences
(1889) and the Nelson Institute (1970) at UW-Madison. Her research investigates Black, Latinx, and Indigenous grassroots organizations that are engaged in the development of sustainable, community-based food systems as a strategy to respond to issues of hunger and food inaccessibility. As the founding director of the Office of Environmental Justice and Engagement (OEJE) at UW-Madison, she works to bridge the gap between the community and the university and its resources by connecting community-based organizations that are working on areas of environmental/food/land justice to faculty and students. Her first book, Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement, published with University of North Carolina Press, was released January 2019. It received the 2019 Eduardo Bonilla Silva Outstanding Book Award from the Division of Race and Ethnic Minorities Section of the Society for the Study of Social Problems.

Freedom Farmers revises the historical narrative of African American resistance and breaks new ground by including the work, roles, and contributions of southern Black farmers and the organizations they formed. The book traces the origins of Black farmers’ organizations to the late 1800s, emphasizing their activities during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Whereas much of the existing scholarship views agriculture as a site of oppression and exploitation of Black people, Freedom Farmers reveals agriculture as a site of resistance by concentrating on the work of Black farm operators and laborers who fought for the right to participate in the food system as producers and to earn a living wage in the face of racially, socially, and politically repressive conditions. Moreover, it provides a historical foundation that will add meaning and  context for current conversations regarding the resurgence of agriculture in the context of food justice/sovereignty movements in urban spaces like Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, New York City, and New Orleans.

In addition to her academic work, Dr. White has been active in the food justice movement for over a decade. She served as president of the Board of Directors of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, and has served on the advisory board of the Southeast African American Farmers Organic Network. Her work in the classroom and community embodies the theoretical framework of Collective Agency and Community Resilience and the use of community-based food systems and agriculture as a strategy of community development.

Dr. White has also received Myseveral teaching and service awards, including the 2013 Olsen Award for distinguished service to the practice of Sociology from the Michigan Sociological Association and the Michigan Campus Compact Faculty/Staff Community Service-Learning Award. The Institute for Agricultural Trade Policy appointed her to the Food Justice Task Force and she is columnist-emeritus for the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems and Community Development. She has presented her work at many national and international community organizations, colleges, and universities. She has received several grants, including a multi-year, multi-million dollar USDA research grant to study food insecurity in Michigan.

To learn more about Dr. Monica White, her work, and her publications, visit https://monicamariewhite.com/.

CheFarmer Matthew Raiford

Banquet Chef and Speaker

Matthew Raiford grew up breaking the dirt and trading crookneck squash for sweet potatoes, raising hogs and chickens, and only going to the grocery store for sundries. After a military career then graduation from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, Raiford returned to the farm in 2011 to continue the traditions of his Gullah-Geechee heritage and to create an authentic farm-to-fork experience for locals. He received certification as an ecological horticulturalist from the University of California’s Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems.

He served until recently as the program coordinator and associate professor of culinary arts at the College of Coastal Georgia. In 2015, Raiford, the former executive chef at Little St. Simon’s Resort, opened The Farmer and the Larder on Newcastle Street, helping jumpstart the revival of Brunswick’s historic downtown. Raiford has appeared in Southern Living, Golden Isles, Paprika Southern, Garden & Gun, and Savannah magazines, and is a frequent presenter at food and wine festivals throughout the country. He hosts the Heritage Radio Network podcast Jupiter’s Almanac, a show about growing and producing the food we eat.

In 2021, Raiford authored Bress ‘n’ Nyam: Gullah Geechee Recipes from a Sixth-Generation Farmer. From Hot Buttermilk Biscuits and Sweet Potato Pie to Salmon Cakes on Pepper Rice and Gullah Fish Stew, Gullah Geechee food is an essential cuisine of American history. It is the culinary representation of the ocean, rivers, and rich fertile loam in and around the coastal South. From the Carolinas to Georgia and Florida, this is where descendants of enslaved Africans came together to make extraordinary food, speaking the African Creole language called Gullah Geechee.

In this groundbreaking and beautiful cookbook, Matthew Raiford pays homage to this cuisine that nurtured his family for seven generations. In 2010, Raiford’s Nana handed over the deed to the family farm to him and his sister, and Raiford rose to the occasion, nurturing the farm that his great-great-great grandfather, a freed slave, purchased in 1874. In this collection of heritage and updated recipes, he traces a history of community and family brought together by food.

To learn more about CheFarmer Matthew Raiford, his projects, and his book, visit https://www.chefarmermatthew.com/