Change Makers

Shakirah Simley – 2017 Stone Barns Exchange Fellow

Stone Barns Center’s new Exchange Fellowship is designed to connect change makers, immerse them in agroecology and farm-driven cuisine, and focus them on strategies for accelerating food system change. Shakirah Simley, a New Yorker now living in the San Francisco Bay Area, was one of the first group of Exchange Fellows who came to the farm in July for a three-week residency.


Did you learn something new about agroecology?

It’s not just a simple farming practice that goes “beyond organic,” but more a holistic system that holds a deep reverence for the relationship among soil, nature, animals and people. We had open conversations on the links between agroecology and native, indigenous and culturally diverse systems of farming and feeding communities.

Please explain “agroequity,” a term the Fellows coined.

Given the lasting legacy of slavery and colonialism in relation to agriculture, we wanted to build upon agroecology’s holistic framework, but with an explicit equity focus. We’re currently working together to define “agroequity” to tie together agroecology, food justice and food sovereignty.

Who were your favorite special guests?

Raj Patel and his colleague Anita Chitaya, a farmer and gender rights and climate change activist from Malawi. [Watch Raj Patel and Anita Chitaya’s lecture here.]

Is there value in interdisciplinary exchange?

We absolutely need to work across coalitions, boundaries and silos to leverage food as a tool of our collective change. We need serious conversations and movement-building dedicated to creating a more equitable and inclusive good-food movement. We need to problematize not just what’s on our plates, but also who’s sitting at the table. We are approaching a tipping point as a movement. This ripe moment gives me heart.

You accepted a new job since your Fellowship residency.

I’m coordinator of citizen engagement and involvement with the Community Benefits Team for the City of San Francisco’s Public Utilities Commission. It’s my job to make sure that a planned resource recovery plant in one of the city’s most under-resourced neighborhoods fits what the community actually wants and needs. It’s a $2 billion investment, which will include education, workforce and youth programs. By starting from the ground up and maintaining a transparent and inclusive process, we can establish the Bayview as a model for sustainability and equitable community development.

What is Nourish|Resist?

A femme-led collaborative, which I cofounded in 2016, that seeks to shift political and economic power to people of color and youth using food as a tool for our resistance. Nourish|Resist has provided more than 225 youth and local community members with capacity-building activities and direct action education over delicious, lovingly made meals.

What was the best meal you ate with the Fellows?

It’s hard to choose between Yana Gilbuena’s beautiful Filipino kamayan feast, or the chile relleno dinner I made with (Exchange Fellow) Eduardo Rivera. The 5.5-hour, 28-course meal we had at Blue Hill gets a serious honorable mention.

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