I'm and agroecologist, community organizer, researcher, radio host, teacher, gardener, consultant and sometimes-farmer. I've been involved in food and farming movements for more than fifteen years.
I've been fascinated with the beauty and complexity of diverse farms for a long time, and I have a deep respect for farmers and others who make a living in constant conversation with nature. My work has focused on the dynamic and creative ways that smallholder farmers adapt to a changing world. Since 2004, I have worked with farmers in southern Mexico with very diverse farms, investigating the ways smallholder farmers use biodiversity to achieve food security in an increasingly uncertain climate and economy. For my dissertation research, I used an innovative combination of qualitative and quantitative methods to show that farmers with the most diverse farms were less likely to go hungry during a drought, and to dig into the complex reasons that some farmers maintain amazing levels of diversity and complexity on their small farms.
In Yucatan I worked closely with a group of six brilliant and dedicated local high school students to carry out this project, and became interested in the decisions they were making. Would they stay or leave their small town? How would they engage with the agricultural livelihoods of their parents? What does it mean to be Mayan in a contemporary world? With my partner Chelsea Wills, a visual artist, we collaborated on a participatory photography project investigated these and other questions that mattered to the young photographers. This work was part of my Fulbright fellowship (2011) and my Ph.D. in Environmental Studies from UC Santa Cruz (2015).
I currently run a consulting business where I help organizations dedicated to a more fair and sustainable food system do agroecology and participatory action research. I love this work, it keeps me working with farmers, scholars, and activists around the world on some of the most pressing and issues and fascinating questions of our times. I've worked for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to help launch an Agroecology Knowledge Hub, with teams of researchers spanning four continents to make research protocols for measuring food security and biodiversity on farms, with a biotech startup in San Francisco offering a cutting-edge soil test to get input from farmers and data from real working farms, and a farmer's union in Mexico to articulate their vision for a healthier food system to the Mexican government.
I've been a farmer twice: I raised vegetables and goats on Bainbridge Island, Washington, and grew flowers with Chelsea Wills at Paper Wings Farm in Sebastapol, California. Right now, I keep a big garden in Sonoma County, California with Chelsea and our one-year-old daughter. I've also managed a farmers market, worked in Nicaragua for a small grant-making organization called the Bainbridge-Ometepe Sister Islands Association, made sandwiches and cappuccinos at Greens Restaurant in San Francisco, written reports and articles at Food First!, a food policy think tank in Oakland, California, and done IPM-based mosquito abatement by bicycle in San Francisco.
You can see my resume on LinkedIn.