Each year, conference participants tell us the great line-up of presenters with their practical experience is what makes our conference program so valuable. These people know their stuff and are willing to share their expertise. Successful farmers and ranchers, along with well-respected educators and local food organizers from around the region, all with extensive knowledge and most importantly, practical experience, will lead all conference sessions, pre-conference courses and field trips.

Laura Lengnick, Ph.D., Founder and Principal Consultant of Cultivating Resilience (NC)

Laura Lengnick, Ph.D., Founder and Principal Consultant of Cultivating Resilience (NC)

Meet Our Keynote Speaker, Laura Lengnick

Laura Lengnick has explored agricultural and food system sustainability through more than 25 years of work as a federal researcher and policy-maker, college educator, community activist and farmer to understand what it takes to move sustainability values into action on the farm, in our communities and as a nation. Trained as a soil scientist, her research in soil quality and sustainable agriculture systems at the Beltsville Agriculture Research Center in Maryland was nationally recognized with a USDA Secretary’s Honor Award in 2002. She has broad federal policy expertise gained through work as a U.S. Senate staffer and USDA agency staff, and a lobbyist advocating for sustainable agriculture in the U.S. Congress. Laura has grown organic vegetables in Tidewater Virginia and in western North Carolina for community supported agriculture and farmers’ market sales. She has a long history of effective collaboration in community-based research, education and advocacy for sustainable food systems and community resilience.

 Laura led the academic program in sustainable agriculture at Warren Wilson College for more than a decade, where she also served as the Director of Sustainability Education, conducted research in sustainability assessment and holistic management, led energy descent action planning, and developed an innovative sustainable dining policy for the college. Laura left Warren Wilson in 2014 to serve as Co-Director of Resilience Initiatives for Second Nature, a national non-profit working towards a more sustainable society through the transformation of higher education. In 2015, Laura launched Cultivating Resilience, LLC, an Asheville-based firm that works with organizations of all kinds to integrate resilience thinking into operations, assessment and strategic planning. She has served as an advisor to the USDA Cooperative Extension’s Climate Science Learning Network, NC-Adapt, the Vermont Food Network, and the North American Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance. She led a community-based project in 2018 designed to explore the potential for voluntary agricultural conservation incentive programs to promote climate resilience in the Hudson Valley of New York. She is currently working with the Natural and Working Lands subcommittee of the North Carolina Interagency Council to develop the state’s first comprehensive Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience Plan.

Laura’s scientific and popular articles about climate change, resilience and the future of food have been published in regional, national, and international publications. Her award-winning book, Resilient Agriculture: Cultivating Food Systems for a Changing Climate (New Society Publishers), explores climate science and resilience thinking through the adaptation stories of sustainable producers growing food across the U.S. At the time of its publication in June 2015, Resilient Agriculture was the first, and is still the only published work that interprets the real world experiences of American producers through the application of leading edge climate risk management and resilience science. Resilient Agriculture was included in Food Tank’s 15 Favorite Food Books of 2015 and it was nominated in 2015 for the Southern Writers Award and in 2016 for the Renewable Natural Resources Foundation’s Excellence in Journalism Award. Resilient Agriculture was one of twelve books selected for Yale Climate Connections’ “Climate Changing the Menu” bookshelf in 2016.

Laura’s forth-coming book, Opportunity in Change: Resilience Thinking for Small Business shares stories of how small business owners in the U.S. are using resilience thinking to create prosperity in their own business and in the communities that they depend on for success.

In her free time, Laura enjoys working on her two-acre biointensive mini-farm tucked away in a lovely south-facing cove in the Swannanoa valley near Asheville. She delights in singing classic swing, is an accomplished dance fiddler, and regularly performs at contra dances and private events in the Asheville region and beyond.

Check back next month for the rest of our conference presenters.