‘Reap What You Sow’ for Transform magazine

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Youth Crew Members at Grow Dat Youth Farm. Photo by Claire Bangser.

Transform Magazine, the industry publication of IEMA for environment and sustainability professionals, recently ran a thoughtful profile of Grow Dat. I met the author, Huw Morris, when I was speaking at the ‘Sustainable Food and Beveridge’ event as part of the LSE Festival: Beveridge 2.0 this past March.

As you will see, I always love an excuse to quote Wendell Berry. And let it be known that every time I talk about sustainable agricultural practices, I’m directly quoting Grow Dat’s Farmers who are far more knowledgable than me!

From the article:

One of Grow Dat’s founding principles is that the toughest social problems will not be solved by individuals or by one group of people alone. “This is one of the lasting lessons of Hurricane Katrina, a dozen years later,” Jeanne Firth says. The project hires young people from partner schools across New Orleans for its five-month leadership programme. Starting at age 15, they come from across the spectrum – elite private Catholic schools, alternative schools and Louisiana’s Center for Juvenile Offenders. “We intentionally hire young people from a dozen different high schools across the city,” she says. “They are young people who work together but might never normally meet.”

Read the full story here.

New Orleans foodscapes and beyond: American Association of Geographers annual meeting

This year, the massive annual AAG (American Association of Geographers) convening is taking place in our own backyard of New Orleans, Louisiana.

The events I’m spearheading or involved with include:

Co-organizer with Yuki Kato (Georgetown) of the session ‘Urban Agriculture in post-“Disaster” Cities’

Co-presenter with Yuki Kato (Georgetown) of the paper ‘The Role of External Funding in the Development of Food Systems and Urban Agriculture in Post-Katrina New Orleans’  Session sponsored by the Geographies of Food and Agriculture Specialty Group, and Urban Geography

Organizer of the field trip and workshop at Grow Dat Youth Farm, ‘The History of the Land’ sponsored by the Geographies of Food and Agriculture Specialty Group

Co-author with Catarina Passidomo (University of Mississippi, Oxford) of the paper ‘New Orleans’ “Renaissance” and the New Southern Food Movement’ in the session ‘Food geographies: culture, media, politics 2’ sponsored by Geographies of Food and Agriculture Specialty Group and Media and Communication Geography

Discussant for the paper session ‘Bodies and Spaces ‘of’ and ‘at’ Risk in the City: Framings, Responses and Resistance (II)’ organized by my incredible colleagues at the London School of Economics and Political Science in the Department of Geography and the Environment, Jordana Ramalho, Laura Antona and Paroj Banerjee

Thanks to the Geographies of Food and Agriculture Specialty Group for helping organize the field trip to Grow Dat and for their sponsorship of our sessions here, in addition to many other convenings.

Review for LSE Review of Books

I enjoyed reviewing the new collection out from Bloomsbury, Making Milk: The Past, Present and Future of Our Primary Food edited by Mathilde Cohen and Yoriko Otomo (2017), for the LSE Review of Books. My contribution is part of an effort to amplify women’s voices in publishing for the month of March — here’s a great overview of the initiative by Rosemary Deller, Managing Editor of the Review.

Making Milk assembles a provocative collection of strong interdisciplinary scholarship to explore milk’s material, affective, historical, semantic, symbolic and economic relations. Some of my favorite chapters come from Mathilde Cohen, Greta Gaard and Richie Nimmo.

Within the collection, the editors ascribe to a non-biological definition of milk, ‘so as to encompass the full range of milk’s material, affective, historical, semantic, symbolic, and economic relations’. Practically, this means that the essays included are interdisciplinary, covering a wide range of scholarship. More conceptually, the authors’ use of a non-biological definition is key to the book’s successful contribution to critical thought. I love a thread of questioning that is tied to this definition: is milk a ‘natural’ substance? (echoed by the question ‘what is it?’ proposed by Greta Gaard in Chapter Eleven, which Gaard engages to challenge gender dualism and binary thinking). What is natural?

Thinking about milk in light of this collection, it is a slippery substance. Right at the moment of pinning it down, of assigning milk a definitive label and categorisation, its flow changes course. Slippages drip into unexpected places and open up new lines of inquiry, making milk indeed deserving of our attention and care.

Read on here.

Presentation at the SFA’s Foodways and Social Justice Conference

I recently had the honor of presenting at the Southern Foodways Alliance’s (SFA) graduate student conference, ‘Foodways and Social Justice in the U.S. South‘ at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. The colloquium brings together ‘graduate students from a range of disciplines to exchange knowledge, experience, and scholarship’. In my talk, I shared some of my early reflections from my Phd fieldwork and research on the role that philanthropy is playing in the food movement in post-Katrina New Orleans.

I was impressed by the generosity of the SFA (the colloquium is free and the food is fantastic — we had an incredible dinner at Snackbar), the moving and important tour of the campus by Professor Jeff Jackson of the Slavery Research Group, and the stellar food scholarship by other attendees from around the country.

Marshall Institute Grant Award

The Marshall Institute at the London School of Economics recently awarded research grants and I am happy to selected as an award recipient. The Marshall Institute aims to increase the impact and effectiveness of private action for public benefit through research, teaching and convening. Grants are given to empirical research (qualitative and quantitative) and the theoretical underpinnings (economic, social, political, moral) of private action for public benefit.

Project abstract:
As private funding is increasingly circulating in development and humanitarian aid, this project will identify the sources of knowledge that inform, inspire and produce such interventions. This research examines the substantial philanthropic activity in foodscapes and food systems in New Orleans more than a decade after Hurricane Katrina. Many projects in New Orleans have been funded or spearheaded by high-profile individuals, and this research seeks to understand the role that celebrity plays in processes of knowledge production.

Read more about the award and other recipients.

Jeanne Firth selected as 2017 Visiting Scholar at Tulane University

I’m honored to be selected as 2017 Visiting Scholar at the Small Center for Collaborative Design and the Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking at Tulane University. I’m fortunate to have worked previously with the stellar faculty and staff from both Centers as the Assistant Director of Grow Dat Youth Farm.

I have no doubt that Tulane will be a wonderful academic home while I am conducting my fieldwork in New Orleans.

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Interview with New Orleans Public Radio: On celebrity philanthropy in post-Katrina New Orleans

Local NPR affiliate WWNO New Orleans Public Radio asked me to speak with them about celebrity humanitarianism in the decade since Hurricane Katrina. I chatted with the fabulous Jesse Hardman near the eco-friendly homes built by Brad Pitt’s Make it Right Foundation.

The interview starts at about minute 10:15 – click here to listen.

I’m currently continuing to explore the role of celebrities and business leaders in aid and development in my PhD research.

Presentation at #EverydayHumanitarianism: Ethics, Affects and Practices conference

I was honored to be selected to present at the #EverydayHumanitarianism: Ethics, Affects and Practices conference.  The convening was coordinated by the research network on celebrity and North-South relations (see their excellent new book here) and took place on the LSE campus this spring.

Our panel was part of the track on ‘Commodification — The Humanitarian Marketplace’, exploring issues in Philanthropy, Brand Aid, Celebrity Endorsement, Micro-Finance, Entrepreneurship and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

‘Grow Dat: Phoenix from the Floods’ for Sustainability at LSE

Jon Emmett who runs the Sustainability Blog at The London School of Economics and Political Science asked if I would write a piece for the LSE environmental community about the work and mission of Grow Dat Youth Farm, and I was happy to oblige.

‘At Grow Dat Youth Farm, we use chemical-free farming methods to build a resilient sustainable agricultural system. To us that means producing food by supporting natural ecological systems and stewarding natural and human resources for the future. Located on a former golf course, we do not use chemical-based pesticides or fertilisers. Instead, we utilise techniques such as cover cropping, composting, companion planting, farmscaping and crop rotation to stimulate micro-biological activity and soil health.’

Read more here.

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Youth Crew Members inspect a crop of lettuces in the field at Grow Dat in New Orleans, Louisiana

ICONS Women Workers by Anna Henson: Creating New Narratives about Women & Work

screen-shot-2016-10-03-at-12-11-11I had the honor to work with artist Anna Henson for her on-going project ‘Icons: Women Workers’. An interactive digital portrait places me at sunset in front of the hoop house at Grow Dat Youth Farm in New Orleans, Louisiana.

I am proud to stand alongside Courtney Harvey, Sister Alison McCrary, Malliron Hodge and Claire Graves – all incredible women.

About the project
Icons : Women Workers is an ongoing series of interactive video portraits aiming to create a gesture-based movement dialogue between a viewer and digital portrait, while investigating a  new iconography of women in the workplace. A hybrid of documentary and staged imagery, with symbolism drawn from varied religious and spiritual sources, the work blurs performativity with the reality of the women’s working lives. The objects shown below the portraits, significant to each woman’s working life, as well as the hand positions (mudras), were chosen in collaboration with each portrait subject. More here.