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2021 SAFSF Forum

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OPENING SESSION – Reckoning a Way Forward: Co-Creating Philanthropy’s Course toward a More Just and Sustainable Food System

May 3, 2021 @ 10:00 am 11:30 am PDT

Presented by Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders (SAFSF) and The John Merck Fund
Thanks to Forum Platform Sponsors 11th Hour Project, Fair Food Network, GRACE Communications Foundation, Thread Fund

Coronavirus infection rates are down, vaccination rates are up, stress on the healthcare system is easing, schools are reopening, and our struggling economy is stabilizing. Five months into the Biden-Harris Administration and the 117th Congress, USDA, FDA, EPA and other agencies are getting back to their regulatory and programmatic duties, and legislators are getting back to the business of lawmaking.

A return to normalcy is at hand.  But is that what we want?

2020 highlighted deep injustices in every one of our systems—health care, politics, economics, education, law enforcement—and, of course, food and agriculture. Such upheaval and disruption is an opportunity to reimagine and improve systems. SAFSF’s 19th Annual Forum will help agriculture and food system funders and investors examine how our practices have perpetuated the systems that have failed us, especially in this last tumultuous year, and amplify the voices of those who have kept their neighbors fed by growing their own food, supporting their local farms, changing their businesses on the fly, and advocating for authentic redress of entrenched food system injustices. These leaders are showing us the way toward a more just, equitable, and sustaining food system. Join us at the Forum–and during this opening session–as a first step in following their lead.


Kat Gilje, Ceres Trust; CA

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Kat Gilje is Executive Director of Ceres Trust. Ceres Trust, whose name honors the ancient goddess of agriculture, provides grants that support healthy and resilient farms, forests and communities; and the ecosystems upon which we all depend.  Ceres Trust focuses on grassroots leadership and organizing, equity, and movement building toward systemic and transformational change.  Grant areas include:  education for farmers in organic, sustainable and resilient farming systems; efforts to promote food crop biodiversity and public access to seeds; graduate student & farmer-led research in organic agriculture; protection & proliferation of our vital pollinators; protection of people, farms & ecosystems from pesticide poisoning and from GMO contamination; protection of our forests from genetic engineering and use as biofuels; research by independent scientists; and documentary films & art (supported for public education purposes on key issues related to the Ceres Trust mission, and as tools of cultural change). An agronomist and community organizer trained by Voices for Racial Justice in Minnesota, Kat previously was co–director of Pesticide Action Network North America; co–founder/director of Centro Campesino; and senior associate at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.  She currently serves on the steering committee of the Bay Area Justice Funders Network and as chair of Genesis, a faith and values–based organizing group in Oakland, California.

Reverend Mariama White-Hammond, New Roots AME Church; MA

Speaker bio coming soon.

Keoni Lee, Hawaiʻi Investment Ready; HI

Keoni Lee is the CEO of Hawai’i Investment Ready, an impact investing intermediary with a mission to advance coordinated and collaborative capital approaches in support of a Just Transition for Hawaiʻi to a living island economy. HIR’s flagship program is its business accelerator that integrates ancestral wisdom with 21st century impact tools and experts. Keoni participated in HIR’s first accelerator cohort in 2013 as a co-founder of ‘Ōiwi TV, the first Native Hawaiian language and culture television station. In his work with ʻŌiwiTV he had the privilege and honor to learn from and work in native communities across Hawai’i and around the world. These experiences and relationships to people and culture have shaped his perspective and drive his work to shift power by being grounded in indigenous knowledge and values. Keoni is active in community work and initiatives around decolonizing education, food systems, and the economy. In 2020, he co-founded the ʻĀina Aloha Economic Futures initiative – an indigenous-led, values and relationship-based liberation movement to transform Hawaiʻi’s economy. His leadership garnered selection as a Hawaiʻi Omidyar Fellow, RSF Just Economy Institute Fellow, and First Nations Futures Fellow.

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