Program descriptions for Plenary, Keynote, Lightning, and Breakout Sessions at the annual PA-WAgN Symposium.

Plenary Sessions

Keynote Address - Leah Penniman; PA-WAgN Organizational Updates and Intro to WRUN Framework

  • Time: 10:15a-11:45a
  • Location: Rm 200ABC
  • Keynote: Leah Penniman - Soul Fire Farm, Farming While Black
  • Moderator: Molly Bernsten - PA-WAGN, Penn State Extension
  • Lecture Description: Some of our most cherished sustainable farming practices - from organic agriculture to the farm cooperative and the CSA - have roots in African wisdom. Yet, discrimination and violence against African-American farmers has led to our decline from 14 percent of all growers in 1920 to less than 2 percent today, with a corresponding loss of over 14 million acres of land. Further, Black communities suffer disproportionately from illnesses related to lack of access to fresh food and healthy natural ecosystems. Soul Fire Farm, cofounded by author, activist, and farmer Leah Penniman, is committed to ending racism and injustice in our food system. Through programs such as the Black-Latinx Farmers Immersion, a sliding-scale farmshare CSA, and Youth Food Justice leadership training, Soul Fire Farm is part of a global network of farmers working to increase farmland stewardship by people of color, restore Afro-indigenous farming practices, and end food apartheid. And now, with the new book Farming While Black, Soul Fire Farm extends that work by offering the first comprehensive manual for African-heritage people ready to reclaim our rightful place of dignified agency in the food system. Join us to learn how you too can be part of the movement for food sovereignty and help build a food system based on justice, dignity, and abundance for all members of our community.
  • Keynote Bio: 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 training for Black and Brown people, a subsidized farm food distribution program for communities living under food apartheid, and domestic and international organizing toward equity in the food system. Leah has been farming since 1996, holds an MA in Science Education and a BA in Environmental Science and International Development from Clark University, and is a Manye (Queen Mother) in Vodun. The work of Leah and Soul Fire Farm has been recognized by the Soros Racial Justice Fellowship, Fulbright Program, Grist 50, and the James Beard Award, 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.

Keynote Address - Audra Mulkern; PA-WAgN Announcements and Awards

  • Time: 2:15p-3:45p
  • Location: Rm 200ABC
  • Keynote: Audra Mulkern - Female Farmer Project, Women's Work Documentary
  • Moderator: Patty Neiner - PA-WAGN, Elisa Fleming - Verdant View Farm
  • Keynote Bio: Audra Mulkern is a 2019 James Beard nominee, writer and photographer who is changing the way you look at farming and the food on your plate. She is the founder of "The Female Farmer Project™" - a multi-platform documentary project that chronicles the rise of women working in agriculture around the world. From in-depth stories, personal essays, photographic portraits, a podcast, and in-development documentary film -- the project gives a powerful voice to the fastest growing demographic in agriculture-- the female farmer. Audra is the Co-Executive Producer and host of the in-progress documentary film, Women's Work: The Untold Story of America's Female Farmers. The Female Farmer Project™ has garnered international recognition, and has been featured and published in a number of outlets including The Guardian, The Today Show, Condé Nast, Huffington Post, PBS, The Seattle Times, and has been in exhibition at the United Nations in New York, the IFAD building in Rome, La Maison Rouge Gallery in Paris, FarmAid30, TEDxManhattan 2015 and is in permanent exhibition at the USDA in Washington DC. She recently worked to pass legislation to help fund mental health resources for farmers and farmworkers at the state level and in the 2018 Farm Bill. She was honored with the PCC Farmland Trust Barn Raiser award in 2018 and the Tilth Alliance 'Advocate of the Year' award in 2018 for that work.

Lightning Session

  • Time: 4p-5p
  • Location: Rm 200ABC
  • Presenters: Raqueeb Bey - Black Urban Gardeners and Farmers of Pittsburgh Co-op; Monica Pape - The Accidental Agronomist; Hannah Whitley - Penn State University; Michaela Hoffelmeyer - Penn State University; D. Rooney - Rock Steady Farm and Flowers
  • Moderator: Maria Gorgo-Gourovitch - PA-WAGN, Penn State Extension
  • Program Description: The Lightning Session is a series of short 'big idea' presentations related to women in agriculture designed to foster conversation, innovation, collaboration, and collective action among PA-WAgN's membership and support network. Presentations will be delivered in 5-minute intervals highlighting ideas and innovation around a variety of topics including: restorative justice, soils and sustainability, LGBTQ Farmers, ETC/TBD. Following the presentations, participants will have the opportunity to dig deeper into different topic areas/themes shared by presenters through facilitated Q+A with panelists and small group breakout discussions.
    • Court Restorative Justice (CRJ) in Urban Agriculture: Raqueeb Bey will present a CRJ workforce development program for women in PA who are returning citizens from PA's SCI Muncy and Cambridge Springs.
    • Soil Doesn't Follow Trends - People Do: In this presentation with Monica Pape, we'll plow through some of the current trends, such as soil innoculants, different farming techniques, and soil fertility programs associated with the soil health industry. In a following small group breakout, participants will be encouraged to talk about their experiences sharing the good the bad and the successful while exploring the financial costs or gains and their practicality in different farming situations.
    • A Research & Extension Agenda for Learning from Historically Underserved Farmers, Growers, Food Activists, and Agricultural Educators: This lightning talk will share findings from six months of interviews, fieldwork, and participatory action research with women farmers, growers, food activists, and agricultural educators in Pittsburgh, PA. I will discuss participants' proposed solutions for environmental, financial, and social barriers within urban agriculture spaces and discuss ways in which academic researchers and extension personnel can best support historically underserved agriculturalists.
    • Sexuality and Sustainable Agriculture: LGBTQ Visibility in Farming: Michaela will present findings from interviews with 20 LGBTQ farmers from the Northeast highlighting how these farmers experienced challenges and developed strategies to farm. Michaela briefly offer insights on how to build connections between women farms and LGBTQ farmers.
    • Rock Steady Farm and Partnering with Community Organizations: D. Rooney will share how Rock Steady has developed partnerships with local and regional community organizations to support food access initiatives.

Morning Breakout Sessions (9a-10a)

Keeping Seeds, Building Sovereignty, and Growing Solidarity

  • Track: Foodways and Growing Traditions
  • Location: Rm 200AB
  • Presenters: Leah Penniman -  Soul Fire Farm, Farming While Black; Amirah Mitchell - Truelove Seeds; Lan Dinh - VietLead, Resilient Roots Community Farm, Furness High School Garden, Soil Generation ; Dorene Pasekoff - Hill Creek Farm
  • Moderator: Noelle Warford - Urban Tree Connection
  • Program Description: Local seed keeping experts will share the roots of their seed keeping practice and the stories of the seeds that they keep through a facilitated panel discussion and group conversation. Learn about agricultural practices and seeds rooted in African wisdom; hear how Vietnamese, Southeast Asian, immigrant and refugee communities are building resilience through seed keeping; explore connections and opportunities between rural and urban seed keepers from the region; and imagine how seed keeping can be transformed from a practice into a way of life.

Plant By Numbers

  • Track: Sustainability
  • Location: Rm 217A
  • Presenters: LaVerne Baker Hotep - Women for a Healthy Environment, Numerology for Enlightened Living
  • Moderator: Susan Parry - Pennsylvania NRCS
  • Program Description: Our lives operate on repeating nine-year cycles. Each of these years, from 1 to 9, has its own vibration, its own set of influences, opportunities and obstacles. By knowing what to expect in advance, you can prepare to take advantage of the opportunities and avoid the pitfalls. The nine years in each cycle are very much like the stages in a harvesting season. Each one prepares for the next. In order to have a good harvest, no step can be neglected or left out. This lively, intriguing session will provide a fascinating comparison and understanding of the nine-year human cycle and the 9 cycles of plant life.

How to Make a Living Doing What I Love

  • Track: Business and Marketing
  • Location: Rm 217B
  • Presenters: Annie Warmke - Women Grow OhioBlue Rock Station,; Carie Starr - Women Grow OhioCherokee Valley Bison Ranch
  • Moderator: Sabine Carey - Pennsylvania Certified Organic
  • Program Description: In January, Carie Starr and Annie Warmke started their farm day by hosting a virtual radio show (podcast) to explore how different women are making a living in the agriculture industry. The interviews last approximately 30 minutes and are focused on how women have found their land, agriculture suppliers, farm market management, organic standards, and general discussion about how women work as farmers and urban growers.

Research, Equity, Action

Decolonize Your Mind: Land Liberation and Urban Agriculture

Afternoon Breakout Sessions (1p-2p)

We All Eat At The Same Table: Food Connects Us

  • Track: Foodways and Growing Traditions
  • Location: Rm 200AB
  • Presenters: Jade Banks - Community Folklorist; Sandy Miller - Painted Hand Farm
  • Moderator: Abigail Appleman - Pennsylvania NRCS
  • Program Description: We all have favorite old foods passed down through the family. As our society has grown more diverse, our recipes have also grown more diverse. They are a document to our folklore and our cultures. This session will get you thinking about how special foods are a testiment to our cultures by engaging you in exercises to look at your own favorite foods. And it will challenge you to look at how you can use food to connect with your customers and create long lasting relationships with people you may not have connected with before. Come ready to be engaged and ready to leave hungry to delve deeper into the food around you.

Coming Together Across Generations: An Intergenerational Panel of Women Growers and Food Advocates

  • Track: Sustainability
  • Location: Rm 217A
  • Presenters: Nefertari Muhammad and Sasha Hubert - Supreme Compost; Dru Peters and Claire O'Brien - Sunnyside Farm; Asata Brown and Emily Carlson - Art in the Garden; Jeri Robinson-Lawrence and Irina Lawrence - Flying Fibers
  • Moderator: Nykisha Madison-Keita and Karyn Hopkins - Urban Tree Connection
  • Program Description: During this dynamic panel, you will hear the stories of two mother-daughter farming duos, a mother-daugther compost education team, and members of an intergenerational garden program. Learn about the role of intergenerational exchange, education, and mentorship in their work; reflect on the importance of preserving agricultural knowledge for generations to come; and learn how our panelists are paving the way for the next generation of growers and food advocates to innovate and lead.

Growing Your Digital Presence

  • Track: Business and Marketing
  • Location: Rm 217B
  • Presenters: Shadyra Chambers - The Food Trust; Megan Whitmer - Just Harvest
  • Moderator: Brielle Underwood - The Food Trust
  • Program Description:Have you been wanting to get around to updating your website? Want to talk with an expert about the best way to plan your social media posts? Then this workshop is for you! This session will focus on how you can tell the story of your business or organization online. Topics will include online marketing, website development, and social media strategy for farmers. You will here from experts who can answer questions, provide guidance, and offer suggestion that you can start implementing right away.

Ancestral Herbal Medicine and Modern Practice

  • Track: Women in Agriculture
  • Location: Rm 217C
  • Presenters: Desiree Catherine Thompson - Nana Catherine's Apothecary; Linda Shanahan - Barefoot Botanicals; Julia Aguilar - Truelove Seeds, Tooth of the Lion Farm and Apothecary; Folami Irvine - Precious Jewels Prevention Program LLC; Katelyn Melvin - Tooth of the Lion Farm and Apothecary
  • Moderator: Dr. Dana Harris Yates - Black Urban Gardeners and Farmers of Pittsburgh Co-op, IFAA Alliance, Urban Agricultural Working Group, TRALI
  • Program Description: A diverse group of herbalists from across the state are coming together for this panel discussion and Q+A around herbal medicine and practice. Learn how herbalists from a range of backgrounds have grown into their work, connected with the earth, and shared their medicine with community. From practices rooted in ancestral tradition, to medicine sharing in solidarity with marginalized communities; working with young people, to sharing medicine across the rural/urban divide, panelists will touch on a range of themes that drive and sustain their work.

Preserving Farmland: Land Access, Land Tenure, and Land Transition

  • Track: Policy, Advocacy, Justice
  • Location: Rm 217D
  • Presenters: Marlene van Nelson - Trellis Legal, LLC; Michelle Kirk - PA Farm Link; Adrienne Nelson and Karen Gardner - National Young Farmers Coalition
  • Moderator: Lyn Garling - Over the Moon Farm
  • Program Description: Land access and tenure is a huge topic for urban and rural growers alike. Panelists from PA Farm Link and National Young Farmers Coalition will share their experience working to connect farmers to land through program and policy. Attorney Marlene van Nelson will give a legal perspective to this issue.

Exhibits (9a-10:15a; 1p-2:15p)

Female Farmer Photovoice Project - "From Blight to Beauty" Photovoice Exhibit

  • Location: Pre Function Room 
  • Exhibitor: Hannah Whitley - Penn State University; Jade Banks
  • Program Description: "From Blight to Beauty" is an exhibition of photographs and stories created by 18 women farmers, gardeners, food activists, and agricultural educators in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As part of a participatory action research project, participants were provided disposable cameras and asked to take pictures that "tell the story" of their experience in urban agriculture. After three weeks of picture taking, participants met during reflection meetings to share their photos, create titles, and write photograph narratives. These images document experiences of community, collaboration, isolation, healing, and love. This exhibit will be traveling across Pennsylvania and the Northeast this year. Additional images and narratives are on display in the project's digital gallery, available at

Pennsylvania Women's Agricultural Network


302 Armsby Building
University Park, PA 16802