Pre-Conferences & Field Trips

Click here to register for these pre-conference sessions 

Racial Equity Pre-Conference Intensive

Led by Rachel Willis of Elevating Equity

How does racism operate in the United States? What would it entail to be an anti-racist leader personally and professionally?

During this session, participants will have the opportunity to reflect on their own experiences with race and racism, understand how their past influences their actions and mindsets today, and create an individualized path towards becoming an anti-racist leader in the food system. Come prepared for a day of knowledge building and self-reflection.

About Rachel Willis


Rachel Willis is an award winning educator with over a decade of experience teaching and leading in K-12 and graduate level settings. Named the 2009 Atlanta Public Schools Elementary Teacher of the Year and 2010 Milken Educator Award recipient, Rachel served on Governor Nathan Deal’s (R-GA) Education Advisory Board and was appointed as a trustee to the Teachers Retirement System of Georgia. 

In 2012, Rachel was recruited to redesign a professional development program centered around culturally responsive teaching and race and equity for Teach For America corps members and alumni in Washington, D.C. and Maryland. During this time, Rachel also designed and served as a co-instructor of a pilot program at Columbia University’s Teachers College focused on preparing current and aspiring principals to lead racially equitable schools.

Building off of her experience designing and facilitating learning experiences, Rachel founded Elevating Equity in 2015 to create spaces for educators and community members to examine race and ensure every child receives an equitable education.

Rachel received a B.A. from Smith College in Government and a Ed.M. in Education Leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University. She currently resides in Atlanta. 

Elevating Equity

Fee: $90 per person (not included in general conference registration)

Date: Monday, December 9

Time: 10am - 5pm (lunch included)

Location: Hyatt Regency Hotel Savannah - Room TBD

Maximum Capacity: 50

A boxed lunch is included in the fee.


Creating the Local Agrarian Commons Pre-Conference

During the next two decades, 400 million acres of U.S. farmland will change hands. What happens to that land is crucial to the future of our food system, the land, our health, and agrarian community equity and wealth.  The majority of young farmers and beginning farmers of all ages struggle with land access, affordability, and tenure and many are excluded from land and financial capital opportunities all together.


We need to hold our precious farmland in a trust for its best uses: sustainable food production and collective, ecological stewardship.  We must also help the incoming organic leadership build on the legacy of our organic elders. We need to support the stakeholders engaged in complex land succession, with all the accounting, estate planning, retirement planning and legal and technical assistance that is necessary.


Agrarian Trust is creating a local Agrarian Commons (501c2 land-holding entities) to support land access and tenure for the next generation of farmers. We see this model as a necessary and innovative approach to address the realities of farmland owner demographics, wealth disparity, farm viability, and all who are excluded and marginalized from equity in land, food, and community.


The local Agrarian Commons will hold farmland to: (1) support ecological restorative agriculture and community, (2) convey 99-year lease tenure and equity interest to farmers, (3) share in ecological stewardship investment, and (4) support farm viability and local agrarian economies.


Agrarian Commons model will be discussed along with detailing the big picture problems the model is structured to address and how the model can expand and compliment land trust work.  Introduction to pilot Agrarian Commons project with details on farms, States, and communities and the work of the Commons Committee.

The workshop will include a brief history of the US land trust movement, farmland preservation success stories, various legal structures one can incorporate to preserve land, growing trends and Agrarian’s unique model to move diversity forward in its land protection mission. This pre-conference event will provide launch points for early stage sharing out of work of Agrarian Committee and details of the phase one of Agrarian’s projects. 

Take away material and knowledge to include:

  • useable and instructive documents, learning, and considerations that will come out of completed work of Commons Creation Committee
  • overview of the Agrarian Commons work
  • unveiling launch of Agrarian Commons; intro to farms involved and communities engaged and fundraising campaign structure
  • exploration and engagement with audience around opportunities to create local AC or ways to evolve and/or create hybrid commons models that other nonprofits could create for holding land

Group Breakouts -

  • what would community ownership look like in your region - break into smaller groups
  • what does land equity look like
  • how are land trusts engaging in diversity and equity 


Ian McSweeney, Executive Director of Agrarian Land trust will be the lead facilitator of the workshop and educate attendees about the mission of Agrarian Land Trust and how other conservation organizations can collaborate and/or adopt a similar inclusive mission.

David Harper a Consultant of Agrarian Trust will discuss the need for more diversity within the land trust community and provide case studies of success. 

Jillian Hishaw, Esq. Founder & Director will discuss the reasons why she established Family Agriculture Resource Management Services (F.A.R.M.S.) a national nonprofit that provides pro bono legal services to farmers of color to ensure land ownerships.

Eric Simpson of West Georgia Farm Cooperative will discuss his experiences as a Black Farmer and being an Executive of one of the oldest Black Farm Cooperatives in the US.

Chris Tittle Director of Organizational Resilience of SELC will discuss how his prior experience in social justice and housing cooperatives has transcended into the field of land protection through SELC collaboration with Agrarian Trust.

About Ian McSweeney


Ian’s career and his life’s work has been focused on the human connection to soil and food. He first worked as a social worker focused on developing and operationalizing outdoor experience based education programs and later sought more direct work with the connections to soil and food in real estate by founding a brokerage and consulting company to focus on prioritizing conservation, agriculture and community within typical land development. Most recently, he served as Executive Director of the Russell Foundation, a private foundation focused on assisting landowners and farmers through customized approaches to farmland ownership, conservation, management and stewardship. During Ian’s tenure the Russell Foundation worked directly with 65 land conservation groups, 40 townships, and local, state and federal partners to assist 60 farms, complete 28 lease and/or management agreements and complete more than 100 farmland focused projects protecting over 12,000 acres and raising over $16,000,000, all aimed towards providing benefit to farmland, farmers, communities, and the local agrarian economy.

Ian has also participated in many farmland and food systems initiatives and has served as a consultant to a number of organizations, locally, regionally and nationally. He has served on zoning, conservation, planning and agricultural Boards and Commissions, County Conservation District, Regional Planning Commission and University Extension Coverts Program. Additionally, Ian speaks on farmland transfer, conservation, secure tenure, and fundraising models around the country. Ian has been recognized as a 40 under 40 leader in NH and selected for the Leadership Institute at Food Solutions New England. Ian and his wife Liz protected their own small NH farm with a conservation easement, manage their forest as a Certified Tree Farm, lease their farmland to a Certified Natural vegetable grower, keep bees, manage habitat with a deep ecological focus, and spend as much time as possible with their two young boys, Dylan and Bridger.  

Ian is deeply passionate and committed to bring about innovation to evolve farmland conservation work to holistically address equitable, secure, and affordable ownership and tenure arrangements, farm viability, conservation, and community resilience to ensure regenerative diversified food production that benefits soil, human, and community health. Ian recently founded Farmland Consulting LLC to Support Communities Through Farmland Preservation and is excited to lead Agrarian Trust as Organizational Director. Email Ian at ian [@]

About David Harper


With 30 years of experience in all aspects of land conservation and farmland preservation in rural and urbanizing regions, David Harper has raised more than $7 million in grants for conservation planning, easement acquisition, sustainable agriculture and local food system development, and ecological restoration projects in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern US. He has worked with landowners and land trusts to preserve more than 7,000 acres of farmland, natural areas and historic sites. He designed and taught a course on land conservation and management and is a frequent public speaker on conservation topics. David served for 8 years as a municipal planning commission member in a fast-growing agricultural community near Philadelphia. He is co-chair of the Rural Resource Coalition of South Carolina, promoting rural economies favoring healthy land and communities, and Treasurer of the International Center for Indigo Culture, educating about revival of indigo as a natural dye. David previously served as Executive Director of the Pee Dee Land Trust in South Carolina and Unique Places to Save in North Carolina. He currently runs a land conservation consulting practice, Land In Common. He and his wife Caroline grow indigo in the SC Lowcountry and produce indigo dye and textiles for her business ( Email David at david [@]

About Jillian Hishaw


Jillian is an agricultural attorney, Founder & CEO of Hishaw Law LLC., F.A.R.M.S., and author of “Don’t Bet the Farm on Medicaid.” Hishaw is well-versed in the areas of civil rights and agricultural policy.  She was recognized as a “Food Changemaker” by Clif Bar Co. and has been featured in O (Oprah) Magazine, The Atlantic, Vice News, the Washington Post and more. Hishaw has nearly 15 years of professional experience and has raised funds for various food bank and law programs. 

F.A.R.M.S. provides technical and legal services to small-scale farmers while reducing hunger in the farmers’ community.  For six years F.A.R.M.S. has been in operation, the organization has purchased and donated nearly 325,000 lbs. of fresh produce and provides estate planning, foreclosure and civil right legal assistance to farmers throughout the country.  Hishaw’s law journal, periodical and American Bar Associations can be accessed at

About Chris Tittle


Chris is a facilitator, organizer, and attorney focused on land and housing justice, participatory governance, and co-creating post capitalist / post white supremacist futures. He is Director of Organizational Resilience at the Sustainable Economies Law Center, a democratically-run nonprofit in Oakland supporting communities to create and control their own sustainable sources of housing, food, energy, and livelihoods. At the Law Center, he co-leads or contributes to the Law Center’s Housing, Worker Self-Directed Nonprofits, Farmland, and Money & Finance Programs.

He trained to become a lawyer without going to law school through the California Law Office Study Program, passing the California Bar in 2018. Prior to training as a barefoot lawyer, Chris completed an MA in Economics for Transition at Schumacher College, an international transformative learning center near Totnes, UK. His dissertation explored community-determined responses to climate disruption in the Global South.

Chris has also organized with the Economic Development without Displacement Coalition and Defenders of Mother Earth - Huichin in Oakland, co-founded the Association of Legal Apprentices, serves on the Board of New Economy Coalition and Oakland Communities United for Equity and Justice, and facilitates the annual Law and Social Change Jam through YES!, a nonprofit organization that connects, inspires and collaborates with changemakers across the world.

He previously did youth leadership development in the South Bronx, taught English in Japan, and explored Islam in Senegal; and in between those two experiences, he traversed 3/4 of the globe by way of rail, sail, foot, and thumb. He earned his BA in Non-Western History with a concentration in Poverty Studies from Washington and Lee University, and his writing can be found on,,,, and elsewhere.  

About Eric Simpson


Simpson is the owner of New Eden Farm and sits on the Executive Board of West Georgia Farm Cooperative, one of the oldest Black farm cooperative in the US located in LaGrange, GA.  With over 20 years of farming experience, Simpson extensive experience in farm cooperatives, program development and retail markets will add a farmer’s perspective to the conversation.  Simpson is a board member of Georgia Organics, a graduate of LaGrange College and is currently a Cohort in the 2019-2020 University of Georgia AGL program.  


Fee: $75 per person (not included in general conference registration)

Date: Monday, December 9

Time: 9am - 4pm (lunch included)

Location: Hyatt Regency Hotel Savannah - Room TBD

Maximum Capacity: 50

A boxed lunch is included in the fee.

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Documentary Showing & Supper - "Raspando Coco" 

Raspando Coco

A documentary by Pilar Egüez Guevara

"Raspando coco" (31 mins, 2018) documents the health impacts and cultural and culinary traditions surrounding coconut, as remembered and experienced by Afro-Ecuadorians in the northern coastal region of Esmeraldas, Ecuador. The documentary is based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted and shot between 2012 and 2017 in multiple sites in Esmeraldas, and in Quito, Ecuador. Through the voices of medical and culinary specialists, as well as Afro-Ecuadorian cultural and culinary experts, the film offers a unique window into ancestral cooking methods and medicinal practices in coastal Ecuador. The film is a rare opportunity to hear the stories and get immersed into the day to day lives of black Ecuadorians and their struggle to preserve their traditions in the face of outdated mainstream medical recommendations and local and global economic pressures. The film shows nearly forgotten traditional recipes and home remedies made by grandmothers from Esmeraldas, such as hot chocolate made with freshly squeezed coconut milk.

“Raspando coco” resalta el valor cultural y medicinal de la cocina tradicional tal y como lo viven y recuerdan afro-ecuatorianos/as que habitan en varias localidades de la costa norte de Ecuador, provincia de Esmeraldas. El documental se basa en la investigación de campo realizada y filmada entre 2012 y 2017 en varias localidades de Esmeraldas y en la ciudad de Quito, Ecuador. Mediante entrevistas con especialistas culinarios y médicos, así como expertos/as culturales afro-ecuatorianos/as, “Raspando coco” ofrece una ventana hacia la cultura y creencias locales, así como los métodos tradicionales de cocina y medicina de Esmeraldas. El documental también se adentra en los impactos socio-económicos y de salud del consumo de alimentos locales.

(Comidas que Curan)

This field trip will consist of the showing of the film, a meal prepared by members of the First Hispanic Baptist Church, Savannah, and a Q&A session/panel with the Film Director, Dr. Pilar Egüez Guevara.


Fee: $35 per person (not included in general conference registration)

Date: Monday, December 9

Time: 5:30pm - 8:30pm (dinner included)

Location: First Hispanic Baptist Church - Savannah, GA (Transportation not provided)

Maximum Capacity: 75


Gullah Meal & Storytelling with Sallie Ann Robinson

Sallie Ann Robinson is a sixth generation Gullah and native American born on Daufuskie Island in South Carolina. She promised herself that one day she would move back home, and now she’s back, and PROUD to be on the very soil of her ancestors of long ago. For Sallie Ann, there is no place like HOME. Join her for a special intimate session of story-telling, discussion of local, native foods, and an authentic Gullah meal prepared by the lovable and lively chef, Sallie Ann Robinson.

Fee: $75 per person (not included in general conference registration)

Date: Monday, December 9

Time: 11:00am - 2:00pm

Location: First Baptist Church - Savannah (Transportation not provided, about 9 min walk from Hyatt Regency)

Maximum Capacity: 30


Savannah Farm-to-Table Restaurant Tour

Visit multiple Savannah area farm-to-table restaurants such as Cha Bella and The Public Kitchen. A quintessential Savannah trolley will transport you through Savannah and to each restaurant site.

Fee: $45 per person (not included in general conference registration)

Date: Monday, December 9

Time: 10:15am - 2:30pm

Location: Various restaurants in Savannah, GA

Maximum Capacity: 35