A Focus on Community Health and Resilient Food Systems

Free, virtual Agroforestry Symposium scheduled for Jan. 28-30

The annual Agroforestry Symposium returns in 2021 with a focus on community health and resilient food systems. The symposium, led by the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) Center for Agroforestry, will be completely virtual this year – and free of charge.

This is the 12th year of the event and registration is currently open. The symposium will be held from Thursday, Jan. 28, through Saturday, Jan. 30. It will run from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. each day.

“This annual event is an opportunity for networking and education, and to help build and grow connections between efforts taking place at the University of Missouri, partnering institutions, and organizations that are contributing to resilient food and agriculture solutions,” said Sarah Lovell, director of the Center for Agroforestry and H.E. Garrett Endowed Chair Professor in the School of Natural Resources (SNR). “In order to retain the collective energy of a live in-person event without compromising health and safety, the symposium seminars will be held online with opportunities for discussion, questions and dialogue.”

Along with webinars, research posters, exhibitors and roundtable sessions, the symposium will feature Mariah Gladstone as the keynote speaker. Gladstone (Blackfeet, Cherokee) is a chef and founder of IndigiKitchen, an online platform dedicated to indigenizing diets using native foods. Gladstone has been recognized as one of the 25 Under 25 Leaders in Indian Country, a Champion for Change and a Grist 50 “Fixer”.

“We are excited to welcome Mariah to the symposium,” Lovell said. “She will be sharing her perspective on the relationship between cultural identity, health and native plants during the opening day of the Agroforestry Symposium this year.”

The Center for Agroforestry will also welcome speakers Michael Muehlbauer and Alkebu-Lan Marcus, orchard directors at the Philadelphia Orchard Project. They work with community-based groups and volunteers to plan and plant orchards filled with useful and edible plants in formerly vacant lots, community gardens, schoolyards and other spaces, primarily in low-wealth neighborhoods where residents have limited access to fresh fruit.

Other speakers include Jim Worstell and Rose Hayden-Smith. Worstell is the coordinator of the Resilience Project and has recently completed a long-term research project that developed an index measuring resilience of agricultural systems in all United States counties. He will speak about the impact of COVID-19, climate change, market volatility and other disruptions on food system resilience. Hayden-Smith is an author and garden historian who will speak about the historical perspective on the role of homegrown nourishing foods during pandemics.

“There will be numerous themes addressed during the symposium that are relevant to farmers, value-added producers, health professionals, community organizers and engaged citizens,” Lovell said. “We’ll look at specialty crops for healthy people and a healthy environment, innovative community development and advocacy, and access and equity for a socially just food system.”

The Center for Agroforestry is one of CAFNR’s Programs of Distinction, a select collection of programs that exemplify CAFNR’s drive to distinction. Those programs define CAFNR’s current impact on Missouri’s agriculture and natural resource economies, providing understanding for how CAFNR is addressing challenges facing Missouri agriculture and natural resources.