FJSAAS Blog – Edition 1.2 – Spring 2021

Welcome to the spring 2021 edition of the Food Justice Scholar-Activist/Activist-Scholar Community of Practice (FJSAAS) blog! 

The FJSASS blog began in January 2021 and will be published 3-4 times per year. Each edition will include recent FJSAAS Activity Updates; Monthly Meeting Highlights; a Member or Project Spotlight; and a Topic or Current Issue Brief. Any FJSAAS participant is welcome to contribute to the blog. See information about contributing below.

Table of Contents:

1. FJSAAS Activity Updates

2. Monthly Meeting Highlights

3. Member Spotlight

4. Topic Brief


1. FJSAAS Activity Updates

By Kristin Reynolds

FJSAAS Session at AAG 2021

As a part of the American Association of Geographers (AAG) Geographies of Food and Agriculture Specialty Group (GFASG), FJSAAS organizes a session at the annual AAG meetings each year. Our session at this year’s online AAG meetings, “Navigating Food Systems Scholar Activism from within, and beyond the Ivory Tower: Exchanging and Strategizing Together across Geographies,” was held on April 10th. The session was a collaboration between FJSAAS, the Agroecology Research-Action Collective (ARC), and People’s Knowledge. The session included a panel focused on perspectives on food systems scholar-activism and activist-scholarship, followed by a participatory discussion about successful scholar-activist/activist-scholar strategies. Two key themes in the session were that many participants engage in, or are inspired to connect activism and scholarship as a commitment to contribute to a more just food system; and that recognizing community-based knowledge is essential in such endeavors. Small group discussions also focused on questions of uneven power in the food system, including topics of racial capitalism, intersectionality, and spatial dimensions of justice.

The session was organized by FJSAAS members Drs. Rosie Kerr, Kristin Reynolds, Colleen Hammelman, and Daniel Block, along with Dr. Colin Anderson, representing People’s Knowledge. It was sponsored by the GFASG and was part of the conference theme “Expanding the Community of Geography.” 

We welcome ideas for the FJSAAS session at the 2022 AAG Meetings in New York City. Ideas can be sent to: fjscholaractivists[at]gmail.com.

New FJSAAS-GFASG Liaison

Brittany D. Jones, Ph.D. Candidate in Spatially Integrated Social Sciences at University of Toledo, was elected to a two-year term on the Geographies of Food and Agriculture Specialty Group’s (GFASG) Executive Board as the FJSAAS-GFASG liaison. In this role, she will keep each group (FJSAAS and GFASG) informed about activities and events of the other, along with serving on the FJSAAS Steering Committee and the GFASG Board. She will be the point-person for the FJSAAS session at the 2022 AAG meetings in New York City. This role was previously held by FJSAAS member Dr. Kristin Reynolds, who will continue to coordinate the group, as a member of the FJSAAS Steering Committee. See the Member Spotlight below to learn more about Brittany’s work. Congratulations, Brittany!

2. Monthly Meeting Highlights

By Sahil Patni

FJSAAS monthly meetings involve discussions of member projects, articles written by members and collaborators, and current events relevant to FJSAAS’ focus on the nexus of scholarship, activism, and geography. Meetings are facilitated in line with FJSAAS’ ongoing commitment to provide a safe meeting space for people from all backgrounds. This includes suggesting anti-racist readings to participants and announcing ‘safe space agreements’ in each meeting, to make attendees cognizant of their positionality, knowledge, perspectives, assumptions etc. during discussions.

In the January 2021 meeting, Sahil Patni, an FJSAAS Steering Committee member, discussed his Mumbai-based social enterprise ‘Harvest Connect’. The project had an operational focus that sought to build direct farmer-consumer supply chains. The FJSAAS discussion involved understanding the startup experience, food justice, and smallholder farmer cooperatives in the Indian context. We did not meet in February. Then, at the March meeting, we discussed the recent article, “Poultry and Prisons: Toward a General Strike for Abolition” by FJSAAS Steering Committee member Dr. Carrie Freshour. Using a small-group discussion format, participants delved into highly engaging discussions around racial capitalism, conditions of factory workers, and related policy contexts. Unique, unanticipated themes like ‘racialized time’ came to the fore while discussing the demands of the factory jobs on workers’ day and life. The May meeting involved a review of FJSAAS’s session in AAG on scholar-activist/activist-scholar strategies. (See AAG session description above.) Participants shared personal experiences with scholarship and activism and the need to balance the tension between self-care and self-doubt. 

These examples give a glimpse into FJSAAS meetings, co-learning and value provided to attendees through different discussions. During our June meeting we will read and discuss the article “The Afterlife of Aretha Franklin’s ‘Rock Steady:’ A Case Study in DJ Scholarship” by Dj Lynnée Denise, before taking a two month break until September 2021. We hope you will join us!

3. Member Spotlight

By Brittany D. Jones.

Hello! Born and raised in Toledo, Ohio, I am a fourth-year PhD Candidate in the Spatially Integrated Social Sciences program at the University of Toledo. The way food brings people together and “growing your own” always fascinated me as a child. It was not until I attended entered my Master’s program in Urban Planning, that scholarship was introduced to me, ushering me into my current research on land accessibility for urban agriculture, a county land bank’s role within the local food system (Toledo and Dayton, Ohio), and the Black agrarian movement as a means of liberation in response to food apartheid and redlining.* During the  3 years that I have participated in FJSAAS, I have learned many varying concepts that are valuable to my research and as a researcher. My work reflects that of scholarship-activism, as knowledge can bolster change and healing to ongoing societal issues. 

*Redlining describes the racist practice in which services or mortgage financing are denied due to the racial and/or economic makeup of a neighborhood, resulting in perceived lower resale value. One consequence of this is food apartheid, another word for ‘food deserts,’ or the absence of high-quality, nutritious foods due to the lack of full-service food outlets resulting from structural racism infused into social and political spheres. This term thus takes into account racial experience and spatial presence.

4. Topic Brief: Thoughts on Conducting Research During the Pandemic

By Melody Lynch

Conducting research during the pandemic is not easy, particularly for geographers who undertake fieldwork as central parts of their projects. We must continuously adapt our projects to the ever-changing context of the pandemic at our home institutions and at our field sites. This can be incredibly challenging; however, there are ways we can move forward while potentially strengthening our research approach. I will reflect on some of these here, based on my experience designing my graduate research project in geography.

First, ahead of fieldwork, we can learn about our field sites through digital ethnographies or other methods of online research, which might include systematically searching through online archives, news articles, and social media. This could serve to decolonize our research approach, for example, if more in-depth online research ahead of field visits means not wasting the time of interview respondents while asking for information already available online. Second, our projects could be more collaborative, working with various experts based at our field sites. This approach might serve to reject the commonly extractive process of research and instead support the priorities of local people and/or organizations. 

Carrying out research during a pandemic is difficult, but there are resources available to help us, such as the AAG Learning Series for Graduate Students: Geography Methods during a Pandemic. Overall, what might be most helpful is to focus on what we can do, rather than focus on what we cannot.


That concludes our spring edition! 

Our next blog will be released in the fall of 2021. If you would like to contribute content to future posts, please email fjscholaractivists[at]gmail.com for more information.

Melody Lynch, Sahil Patni, and Kristin Reynolds, FJSAAS blog editors.

Geographies of Food and Agriculture at AAG 2021!

The 2021 Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers Is this week, April 7-11. The Geographies of Food and Agriculture are sponsoring a wide range of sessions this year, and you can find the details and access the sessions through the conference program platform. Make sure to make room in your schedule for the GFASG business meeting on Saturday, April 10, from 6:15-7:30pm PDT!

Please be sure to make room in your schedule for this year’s Geographies of Food and Agriculture Specialty Group plenary, Examining systems of power in agriculture and food geographies, which is co-sponsored by the Black Geographies Specialty Group and the Latinx Geographies Specialty Group. The session is scheduled for Thursday, April 8, from 1:30-2:45pm PDT. For details see below.

FJSAAS Blog: Jan 2021

Welcome to the first edition of the Food Justice Scholar-Activist/Activist-Scholar Community of Practice (FJSAAS) quarterly blog! 

Introducing the FJSAAS Blog

FJSAAS is a community of practice — that is, a group of people who share a concern or passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact* — situated within the Geographies of Food and Agriculture Specialty Group (GFASG) of the American Association of Geographers (AAG). FJSAAS is open to all.

FJSAAS came together formally in 2017 and continues to engage in various activities and strategic planning initiatives connected to our goals, including monthly online meetings, research support for community-based groups, conference sessions and online dialogues.

This blog will be published quarterly on our webpage, beginning in January 2021. The central goals of the blog are to provide additional ways to engage with FJSAAS and to share  FJSAAS news and discussions with audiences beyond meeting participants and our listserv. The content of this blog will focus on the intersection of three key areas: scholarship and activism; food systems and social justice; and geography, broadly construed. Each blog edition will contain at least three sections: an overview of the edition, updates on recent FJSAAS initiatives, and “member spotlight” focused on the work of an FJSAAS participant.

All are welcome to submit contributions to the blog for consideration, in line with these objectives. For more information about contributing to the blog, email us at: fjscholaractivists [at] gmail.com 

* Wenger E (1998) Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Recent FJSAAS Work 

Our community of practice has engaged in a number of initiatives in recent months. Some highlights from 2020 are:

  • FJSAAS members Robin Lovell, Melody Lynch, Sahil Patni and Angelika Winner collaborated to produce a literature review on the global food production capacity of small-scale, regenerative agriculture for Soul Fire Farm, a BIPOC-centered community based farm in upstate New York. 
  • Members Kristin Reynolds, Danny Block, Colleen Hammelan, Brittany Jones, Jessica Gilbert and the late Hank Herrera published an article in the journal Human Geography about the evolution and radical food geography possibilities of FJSAAS. Several FJSAAS members published additional research articles in this special issue on Radical Food Geography Praxis
  • In late 2020, we developed an FJSAAS steering committee to work on strategic planning and coordination of the community of practice. 
  • Upcoming activities include planning for our annual session at the (virtual) American Association of Geographers’ meeting. In 2021, we are collaborating with People’s Knowledge at hosted by the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience at Coventry University. Updates about this and additional FJSAAS initiatives will be included in our next blog edition in spring 2021.

Member Spotlight 



Sahil Patni (Mumbai, India)
FJSAAS Steering Committee Member
Joined Aug 2019

I work in India’s agriculture sector to improve value chains and make them more accessible, equitable and sustainable for smallholder farmers. I came across FJSAAS while visiting the US in August 2019 and was intrigued by their focus on the ‘scholar’ and ‘activist’ dichotomy. I am primarily an activist/practitioner, spending time with farmer communities and field operations, but I do find immense value in social sciences research from my University days. Our monthly FJSAAS discussions have helped me stay attuned with a research mindset and more recently, has provided an engaging forum for discussions on systemic issues. The recent broadening of support for the Movement for Black Lives brought to fore several important perspectives within our monthly meetings, highlighting the significance of being more self-aware as a group. For me, these discussions also helped me think more deeply about parallels with the systemic inequities in the tribal and Indigenous communities we work with in India. I believe these discussions allow for reflection and dialogue on critical topics that help us become better professionals, and the group would be immensely helpful to both scholars and activists working towards food justice!

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That concludes our first blog edition! Our next blog will be released in the spring of 2021. If you would like to contribute content to future posts, please email fjscholaractivists [at] gmail.com for more information. 

Melody Lynch, Sahil Patni, and Kristin Reynolds, FJSAAS steering committee members and blog editors.

2021 GFASG Graduate Research Grant Competition – UPDATE

The AAG Geographies of Food and Agriculture Specialty Group (GFASG) invites proposals for the 2021 Graduate Research Grant Competition. The Master’s and Doctoral competitions are designed to support graduate students’ conducting initial research for their master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation. 

The master’s level competition is intended to support research-related expenses and travel in support of thesis research during the 2021 field season. Proposals should clearly demonstrate scholarly merit and the ability to be successfully completed during the time-frame of the master’s research.

The doctoral competition is intended to support pilot research, or provide startup funds to help launch dissertation research. This award is not intended to supplement dissertation research that is already underway or near completion. Proposals should clearly demonstrate a scholarly contribution to geographic research on food and agriculture, an ability to successfully complete the proposed work, and a readiness to begin research in 2021.

The awards are competitive; applications are judged on the basis of scholarly merit of the project, organization and clarity of the proposal, qualifications of the student to conduct the proposed work, and their experiences and engagement with diversity. The Awards Committee is committed to equity in this process and especially encourages submissions from students of underrepresented groups including women, people of color, Indigenous people, persons with disabilities, and LGBTQ2S+ persons. As part of the application process, we therefore ask students to submit a diversity statement reflecting on their personal experiences with diversity and/or how their proposed research may engage with broader questions of diversity and equity as they pertain to food systems.

Each applicant must be a student member of the GFASG at the time of application, and the proposed project should be part of her/his thesis or dissertation research. Again, please note that applicants should not yet have completed research, as this is a seed grant. The amount of the research grant prize will be determined by membership and funds available to the GFASG at time of award. Past awards have been in the range of $400 – $600. Awards may not be given if no proposals are deemed suitable.

Entries undergo review by the Geographies of Food and Agriculture Specialty Group’s Executive Committee. A complete application must be sent by email attachment (as a single PDF file with applicant’s name and graduate level [master’s or Ph.D.] in the title of the document). The submission and questions should be directed to Kristen Lowitt (kristen.lowitt@queenusu.ca). Application Deadline: February 15, 2021.

The application form is available here. The application consists of the application form and a one-page synopsis of the curriculum vitae. Submissions should be original, interdisciplinary, well-written and well-researched, and it should be obvious that the applicant is prepared to begin research AND has not already received full funding for the work.

The competition results will be announced at the 2021 Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers during the GFASG Business Meeting. 

Kristen Lowitt (Queen’s University)
Megan Baumann (Penn State University)
Russell Hedberg (Shippensburg University)

GFASG Statement of Solidarity with Black Colleagues and Activists

The Board of Directors of the Geographies of Food and Agriculture Specialty Group of the American Association of Geographers expresses its support for, and solidarity with Black geography colleagues, organizers, activists, and protesters fighting against police violence, systemic racial oppression, and white supremacy in the US and around the world. We are inspired by and support the solidarity statements made by the Indigenous Peoples’ Specialty Group, the Queer and Trans Geographies Specialty Group, and additional AAG specialty groups. We call upon AAG leadership and other specialty groups to show continued solidarity with the Black Geographies Specialty Group, Black geographers, and Black activists building more just Black futures.

The Geographies of Food and Agriculture Specialty Group was founded as an intellectual home, networking space, and venue for sharing ideas and resources on geographical perspectives of food systems. It is committed to diversity and inclusion and many members actively work toward building more equitable, just, and sustainable food systems. The GFASG Board has committed to more proactively supporting diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice within the specialty group and has a subcommittee working on strategies to this end.

Racial injustice permeates all aspects of life, including food systems. Ongoing systemic oppression – rooted in the legacy of colonization and slavery – disproportionately impacts Black people and Black communities. The extensive impact of the global pandemic, economic recession, and police brutality on Black people and Black communities brings to light the historic and systemic racism that underlies health, economic, and political inequities. These inequities are (re)produced in food systems through racist and colonial property regimes, capitalist processes, and systems of food apartheid that: deny communities of color access to fresh and healthful foods; disconnect people from each other and the land; and obstruct food sovereignty. Within this context, Black farmers, activists, and scholars, in geography and beyond, have long innovated and built agriculture and food practices that light paths toward resilience and liberation.

We call on other specialty groups and our members to study and educate, to research and deeply listen, to recognize and support the advancement of Black geography scholars, and to engage in the struggle for racial equity, justice, and freedom.

In Solidarity,

The Geographies of Food and Agriculture Specialty Group Board