Keynote Speakers

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In honor of this year’s theme, Food Traditions: Celebrating our Agricultural Roots, we are thrilled to welcome two keynote speakers whol will highlight the role of all people working the land past and present, as well as the whole community currently committed to food production in Vermont. This awareness and interconnectedness provides strength as we reflect on the past and look to the future of agriculture. 


Leah Penniman Saturday 9:00 am

Leah Penniman

Farming While Black: African Diasporic Wisdom for Farming and Food Justice

Leah Penniman is a Black Kreyol educator, farmer/peyizan, author, and food justice activist from Soul Fire Farm in Grafton, NY. She co-founded Soul Fire Farm in 2011 with the mission to end racism in the food system and reclaim our ancestral connection to land. As co-Executive Director, Leah is part of a team that facilitates powerful food sovereignty programs - including farmer trainings for Black & Brown people, a subsidized farm food distribution program for people living under food apartheid, and regional organizing toward equity in the food system. Leah holds an MA in Science Education and BA in Environmental Science and International Development from Clark University, and is a Manye (Queen Mother) in Vodun. Leah has been farming since 1996 and teaching since 2002. The work of Leah and Soul Fire Farm has been recognized by the Soros Racial Justice Fellowship, Fulbright Program, Omega Sustainability Leadership Award, Presidential Award for Science Teaching, NYS Health Emerging Innovator Awards, and Andrew Goodman Foundation, among others. Her book, Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm's Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land, is a love song for the land and her people.


Melody Walker Brook Sunday 11:30 am

Melody Walker Brook

Eight Sisters: Connection to Place Through an Abenaki Lens

Melody Walker Brook is an educator, activist, and member of the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association. Melody received her master's degree in History from the University of Vermont and focuses much of her work on Abenaki concepts of personhood and identity. Melody is the former vice chair and chair of the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs and is a citizen of the Elnu Abenaki Band. She has been an adjunct professor at various institutions for the past decade and gave a talk called, "Weaving a Thread Through the Seven Generations" at the TEDx Stowe Conference in 2018. Melody will focus on the agricultural history of Vermont beginning with the Abenaki community. She will highlight the richness of Abenaki traditions as a way to understand concepts of personhood, connection to place, sustainability, and innovation. 

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