Images of farmworkers

2011 TEDxFruitvale Speakers
Consideration is under way for 2012 speakers — email Here is last year’s lineup, alphabetical by last name


Host and Translators

Bios (in order of session)

Session One: MEET

Will Scott, President of the African-American Farmers of California

Will Scott was born in Oklahoma to a family of sharecroppers; his parents moved to Fresno, CA, in the 1940s, where they continued to farm. After enlisting in the Navy, Will served in Vietnam aboard a submarine, and later when he retired bought 40 acres near Fresno and began to farm in earnest again. He grows Southern staples such as black-eyed peas and collard greens, which he sells at the farmers market in Fresno and in West Oakland.

U. Roberto (Robin) Romano, director, The Harvest/La Cosecha

Award-winning producer, director, director of photography, and still photographer Robin Romano is one of the most respected investigative filmmakers in the world. In addition to his film and photography, Robin is a human-rights educator and advocate whose knowledge and expertise is highly valued by policy makers at home and abroad. He has traveled extensively documenting human-rights issues for advocacy organizations including GoodWeave, Amnesty International, Free The Slaves and Human Rights Watch. His photography has been published in the Ford Foundation Quarterly, Stanford Review, New York Times, and other leading newspapers and magazines and widely exhibited. He is co-director (with Miki Mistrati) of The Dark Side of Chocolate, a feature documentary on slavery in the West Africa cocoa trade. His most recent film, The Harvest/La Cosecha, which follows three teenage migrant farmworkers across America, won both the Outstanding Filmmaker and Audience awards at the San Antonio Film Festival and earned Robin the National Council of La Raza’s ALMA Special Achievement Award.

José Gutierrez, former farmworker

After working in multiple farming jobs throughout high school, Jose realized that this was not the life he wanted; this was the life he wanted to change. After graduating in the top 10 percent of his high school class, he attended the University of California, Davis, where he graduated with a double major in psychology and Spanish. He now works as a junior research specialist for the Western Center for Ag Health and Safety at UC Davis, helping to promote and establish safe and healthy working conditions for agricultural workers. He plans to attend medical school in the fall of 2012, where he will focus on agromedicine, to help farm workers live a healthier and happier life.

Carlos Francisco Jackson, visual artist and writer

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Carlos Jackson attended the University of California, Davis where he received his Bachelor of Science in Community and Regional Development and an M.F.A. in Painting, and was awarded the Robert Arneson Award for excellence in the M.F.A. program. In 2002 he was awarded a full fellowship to attend the prestigious Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in central Maine. For the 2003-2004 year he held the David Shainberg Endowed Fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA. From 2003-2007 he taught in the Chicana/o Studies Program and Art Department at UC Davis and in the Fine Arts Department at Saint Michaels College in Vermont. He is currently an assistant professor in the Chicana/o Studies Program and is director of Taller Arte del Nuevo Amanecer, a community art center in Woodland, California. The University of Arizona Press has recently published his first book, Chicana and Chicano Art: ProtestArte.

Dr. Flavio Cornejo, farmworker physician

Dr. Flavio Cornejo is an associate chief medical officer for Salud Para La Gente, a federally designated community health clinic, and participates in the National Health Service Corps. The son of Mexican farmworkers, he practices full-scope family medicine, mostly working with under-served low-income communities, including migrant farmworkers in the Pajaro Valley. He has a special interest in diabetes, as well as depression and anxiety, especially when looked at from an evolutionary perspective. He holds a B.S. degree in both psychology and kinesiology from San Jose State University and earned his doctor of osteopathic medicine in 2002 from the University of Medicine and Dentistry at the New Jersey School of Osteopathic Medicine.

Maria Catalán, Catalán Farms

A third-generation migrant farmworker, Maria was born in Guerrero, Mexico, where she helped her parents on the family farm before immigrating to the United States in 1986. For many years she worked for California’s biggest farms, picking broccoli and carrots. Then she enrolled in a program at the Rural Development Center in Salinas Valley that provides agricultural training toSpanish-speaking immigrants with limited means, and later was able to begin farming under the auspices of the nonprofit Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association. Maria and her family now cultivate 14 acres in Hollister, CA, and sell at 13 farmers markets as well as to high-end restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has volunteered with Lideres Campesinas, an organization for farmworker women, and has set up farms stands at the USDA WIC offices in Salinas and at schools. Maria was honored with a Certificate of Appreciation from the USDA, an award usually reserved for organizations, not individuals.

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO,  The Humane Society of the United States

Wayne Pacelle is the president and chief executive officer of The Humane Society of the United States, the nation’s largest animal protection organization with more than 11 million members and constituents, annual revenue of $130 million, and assets of more than $200 million.Wayne’s work on animal issues has been featured in thousands of newspapers and magazines across the country. He has been profiled in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post andLos Angeles Times, and has appeared on almost all of the major network television programs. Wayne blogs daily at Wayne Pacelle: A Humane Nation. Pacelle is the author of the 2011 book “The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them,” published by William Morrow.

Sanjay Rawal, documentary filmmaker

Sanjay Rawal’s most recent film, Challenging Impossibility, about the unlikely weightlifting exploits of the spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy, premiered at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival and has played in over 50 festivals since then. In addition to making films, Sanjay runs a small consulting firm, the Illumine Group, that specializes in strategy for large- and small-scale agriculture projects both in the U.S. and abroad. Sanjay’s current production is an as-of-yet untitled feature-length documentary that focuses on farm labor, the roots of inequity in the agriculture sector, and current movements inspired to inform and enlighten consumers. He and his crew have criss-crossed California, Florida, and the Northeast numerous times this summer documenting stories of workers, farmers, and labor advocates in the hope of developing a tool for the dozens of incredible advocacy organizations he’s encountered.

Edith Gawler and Bennett Konesni, musicians and worksong scholars

Edith Gawler grew up in Maine as a member of the legendary Gawler Family Band, which has now grown to include her husband, Bennett Konesni. As a duo, she and Bennett play old-time fiddle and banjo music, Swedish dance tunes, and sing farmer’s ballads and hollers.  They teach worksongs together in a variety of settings across the country.  Edith is currently developing her architectural thesis at Syracuse University, which looks to draw on the principles of the local sustainable food movement as a model for a new architecture. Bennett is Founder and Creative Director of Sylvester Manor, a 243-acre educational farm on Shelter Island, NY. As an undergrad at Middlebury College, Bennett co-founded the student farm, and majored in Music, Anthropology and Environmental Studies.  Upon graduation he was awarded a Thomas J Watson fellowship to spend a year studying worksongs on three continents.  He received his MBA from Antioch University New England in 2009. His passion is work songs, the music which people use to transform labor into something between work and play. He envisions a world in which farmers, cooks, and eaters once again sing in fields, kitchens, and at the table.

Session Two: MOVEMENT

Arturo RodriguezArturo S. Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers

Arturo Rodriguez continues to build the union César Chávez founded into a powerful voice for immigrant workers by increasing its membership and pushing historic legislation on immigration reform and worker rights. He seeks to fundamentally transform American agriculture by creating jobs offering workers decent pay, comprehensive health coverage, retirement security, protections against toxic poisons, job security and guarantees against discrimination and sexual harassment. Rodriguez has more than 37 years experience organizing farm workers, negotiating UFW contracts and leading numerous farmworker boycott and political drives across North America. He became active with the UFW’s grape boycott as a student at St. Mary’s University 1969. At the University of Michigan in 1971, where he earned an M.A. degree in social work, Rodriguez organized support for farmworker boycotts. He began serving full time with the UFW in 1973, when he first met Chávez, who became his mentor for 20 years. Since the Texas native took over the helm of the UFW upon the passing of its legendary founder in 1993, Rodriguez has increased union membership with an aggressive organizing and negotiating campaign. Among recent UFW victories under Rodriguez’s leadership are agreements with one of the nation’s top five largest vegetable growers, the biggest strawberry employer in the United States, the country’s largest winery, the biggest dairy in the U.S., as well as winery workers in Washington state and mushroom workers in Florida.

Joann Lo, executive director, Food Chain Workers Alliance

Joann is the Executive Director of the Food Chain Workers Alliance, a coalition of worker-based groups organizing to improve wages and working conditions for all workers along the food chain. The Alliance works to build a more sustainable food system that respects workers’ rights, based on the principles of social, environmental, and racial justice, in which everyone has access to healthy and affordable food. In 1997 Joann graduated from Yale University with a degree in Environmental Biology. She then was an organizer on campaigns with two Service Employee International Union locals in Los Angeles, which resulted in hundreds of workers at Catholic Healthcare West and Argenbright Security becoming new union members. In early 2001 Joann co-launched the Garment Worker Center. As lead organizer, she supported garment workers in Los Angeles who led a successful boycott against young women’s retailer Forever 21, a campaign memorialized in the Emmy award-winning documentary Made in L.A. In 2005 Joann joined Enlace, a strategic alliance of low-wage workers centers and unions in the U.S. and Mexico, and a year later became Co-Executive Director. In November 2009 Joann joined the Food Chain Workers Alliance.

Nikki Henderson, executive director, People’s Grocery

The Executive Director of People’s Grocery, Nikki Henderson leads a team invested in creating place-based change and health parity through improvements to the food system in West Oakland, California. Since arriving at People’s Grocery in 2010, Nikki has strengthened the connection between those interested in solving food access challenges to those invested in health and economic parity through citywide alliances with labor and environmental justice, expanding partnerships with health intuitions, and leadership development programs. Before People’s Grocery, Nikki worked for Green for All and Slow Food, national organizations pursuing food, health, and environmental progress. Nikki holds a Master’s Degree in African American Studies from UCLA.

Tim Galarneau, cofounder of Real Food Challenge

Tim is a past Roots of Change Fellow who works as both a national organizing team representative for Real Food Challenge and an education and research program specialist on social issues for the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems(CASFS) focusing on farm to institution, community food systems, and student education and empowerment. In 2004 Tim founded the California Student Sustainability Coalition’s Foods Initiative that helped link and mobilize students across California toward creating policy and student empowerment toward greater sustainability and social justice in their food systems. Tim then joined forces with others across the U.S. to cofound the national Real Food Challenge (RFC) in 2008. RFC is working to shift over $1 billion in annual food procurement and consumption in colleges and universities in the United States by 2020 toward greater sustainability through key metrics and movement building strategies. In addition, on the national organizing scene, Tim is part of a diverse network of young leaders across the country, known as Live Real, that are creating a new “move-entity” for empowering youth and vulnerable communities toward changing their food systems. He lives with his wife and one-year-old twins, Ryder and Mason, in the CentralCoast of California.

Andrea Christina Mercado, lead organizer, Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA)

Andrea Cristina Mercado is Lead Organizer at Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA), a grassroots Latina immigrant women’s organization in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Andrea coordinates MUA’s campaign for Workers Rights Inside and Outside the Home which highlights the intersections of immigrant, worker, and women’s rights.  She is currently leading a statewide effort to include domestic workers in labor laws and is one of the co-founders of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.  She has also lived and worked in Bahia, Brazil with IPETERRAS, a sustainable agriculture project organizing against free trade agreements and as Global Justice Organizer for the Miami Workers Center.

Valerie Troutt and Zoe Ellis, singer-songwriters

Valerie Troutt, a remarkable singer-songwriter, fuses,gospel, soul, world, folk and electronica in her unique approach to jazz and original compositions. She has toured as a member of “The Cultural Heritage Choir” led by Linda Tillery, sung background for Les Nubians with Zoe Ellis at San Francisco Stern Grove & Yoshi’s SF, been a resident artist at the Red Poppy Art House, and performed at the 2009 “Best of the East Bay Festival” in Oakland. She is the featured vocalist in Nicole Klaymoon’s “Embodiment Project,” the lead singer in trumpeter Marcus Cohen’s soul orchestra “The Congress” and a voice instructor at the East Bay Performing Art Center of Richmond, CA. Valerie is the director of the DivintyVoice music and art series, which presents communityevents such as “The Shepeople’s“all-female artists showcase. She has a BFA in Jazz Studies from The New School University of New York and is planning to pursue a masters in vocal music education and curriculum.

Zoe Ellis’s dramatic and colorful voice is well-known to Bay Area and overseas music fans. Always dynamic on and off stage, Zoe sang for many years with the Bay Area Funk band the Mofessionals. Her credits include live performances with the SoVoSo, Slammin All Body Band, Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, Donald Byrd, and Further. She is also the leader of her own quartet as well as an eight-piece ensemble known as Zadell (Zoe and Dave Ellis) with her older brother, tenor sax player Dave Ellis. You can find her album Zoe Ellis Live at Anna’s Jazz Island on iTunes.

Session Three: MONEY

Gerardo ReyesGerardo Reyes-Chavez,  leader and organizer, Coalition of Immokalee Workers

Gerardo has worked in the fields since age 11, first as a peasant farmer in Zacatecas, Mexico, and then in the fields of Florida picking oranges, tomatoes, and watermelon. He joined the Coalition of Immokalee Workers shortly after his arrival in the United States in 2000, when his fellow farmworker roommates, who had previously escaped a violent slavery operation hidden in the swamp south of Immokalee, FL, invited him to come to the CIW’s Wednesday evening community meetings. Since then Gerardo has been a key leader of the CIW, his work focusing both at the community level, mobilizing the Immokalee community around national actions in the CIW’s Campaign for Fair Food, and more broadly at the consumer level across the country, raising awareness in support of the Campaign through presentations, workshops, and speeches. Gerardo has helped investigate several modern-day slavery operations, including going undercover to work on tomato farms and interviewing workers who have escaped from violent, brutal operations. He is today a key member of the CIW’s negotiating team in talks with retail food and tomato industry leaders and has been instrumental in forging many of the CIW’s Fair Food agreements. Gerardo also helps to run Radio Conciencia, the low-power community radio station through which the CIW is creating a space to share the diversity of cultures, languages, and experiences that make up Immokalee.

Heather Franzese, Senior Manager, Fair Trade USA

Heather Franzese has been working for more than 12 years to improve the lives of vulnerable farmers and workers in global supply chains. Last year, she launched Fair Trade USA’s Fair Trade Certified™ Apparel & Linens program in the U.S., a new way for consumers to vote with their dollars for an alternative to sweatshops. Heather brings together industry experience managing CSR for Columbia Sportswear Company’s licensed and collegiate categories, a fundraising track record of channeling $4 million in social impact philanthropy to Fair Trade certification, and field experience working with small-scale farmers for the Peace Corps in Mali. She holds an MPP in Political and Economic Development from Harvard Kennedy School.

Amelia Ceja and Dalia Ceja, Ceja Vineyards

Amelia Ceja’s first encounter with viticulture was in 1967 when, as a 12-year old immigrant from Jalisco, Mexico, she harvested her first grapes in Robert Mondavi’s Tokalon Vineyard in the Napa Valley. Today she is president of Ceja Vineyards, her family’s winery in Northern California. Ceja Vineyards has twice been named “Best Boutique Winery in Napa & Sonoma” by Best of Napa and Sonoma Valley Magazine. In 2005 the California legislature recognized Amelia as “Woman of the Year” for “breaking the glass ceiling in a very competitive business,” in 2008 she was named Business Woman of the Year by the Sacramento Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and honored as the “most outstanding female leader, innovator and visionary in the wine field in the North Bay” by North Bay Business Journal.

The daughter and granddaughter of immigrant vineyard workers, Dalia Ceja grew up surrounded by vineyards in Northern California’s Napa Valley. Today Dalia serves as Ceja’s director of sales and marketing. She and Amelia together promote awareness of authentic Mexican cuisine and its affinity for wine on the winery’s website, YouTube, and on her own blog, The Ole! Report. In 2010 Dalia cohosted the Napa segment of’s “Rediscover” web series and in 2011 she was named ‘Woman of the Year” by the Napa Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Dalia is working on her MBA in Wine Marketing at Sonoma State University.

Barry EstabrookBarry Estabrook, author, Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit

Stints working on a dairy farm and a commercial fishing boat as a young man convinced Barry Estabrook that writing about how food was produced was a hell of a lot easier than actually producing it. Formerly a contributing editor atGourmet magazine, he now writes for the the New York TimesWashington Post,,, and Saveur. Barry’s article for Gourmet on labor abuses in Florida’s tomato fields received the 2010 James Beard Award for magazine feature writing. His book Tomatoland, about how industrial agriculture has ruined the tomato in all ways – gastronomic, environmental, and in terms of labor abuse – was released in June 2011 by Andrews McMeel.

Sandy Brown and Adelfo Antonio, Swanton Berry Farm

Sandy Brown’s work on farm labor and sustainable food systems attempts to bridge some of the many divides between agriculture, activism, and academia. She has worked with Swanton Berry Farm since 2003, focusing on human resources and strategies for promoting social justice in agriculture, both within and beyond the farm gate. The first certified organic farm in the United States to sign a labor contract with the United Farm Workers (UFW), Swanton Berry Farm offers its workers low-income housing on site, health insurance, vacation and holiday pay, a pension, and other benefits including an employee stock ownership program. Sandy currently divides her time between farm life and graduate studies in geography at UC Berkeley, where she researches agricultural labor relations in California and Latin America.

With 23 years working at Swanton Berry Farm, Adelfo Antonio is one of the company’s longest-term employees and is currently the production crew supervisor. He appreciates Swanton’s organic production methods, positive work environment, and the benefits that come with union representation. Originally from the Mexican State of Oaxaca, he currently lives with his wife and three children in Santa Cruz.



Mariachi mi Tierra Linda, musicians
Mariachi mi Tierra Linda are a group of professional, passionate musicians based in Oakland, CA. Led by the son of a farmworker family in the Central Valley, they will perform “Los Mandatos” (“The Favors”), a song about how workers are loved for their labor and hated for their presence, and “Tres Veces Mojado” (“Three times ‘wet’”), about the hard life of one particular immigrant worker.

Host and Translators

Maisie Greenawalt, TEDxFruitvale host
Maisie is cofounder and president of the Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation and vice president of strategy for Bon Appétit Management Company, for which she has spearheaded a number of sustainability initiatives. Most recently, Maisie has been focused on farmworker rights. After a trip to Immokalee Florida tomeet with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and to see firsthand thedifficult working conditions of tomato pickers in that region, Maisie and Bon Appétit CEO Fedele Bauccio collaborated with the CIW to usher in a sweeping Code of Conduct for how the company’s Florida tomato suppliers treat their workers. Later, Maisie led the Foundation team that worked on the Inventory of Farmworker Rights and Protections in the United States, a comprehensive report about current laws and practices developed partnership with United Farm Workers with support from Oxfam America.

Esther M. Navarro-Hall, interpreter

Esther has worked as a freelance interpreter, trainer, and consultant in the conference, corporate, court, medical, and community fields for the past 25 years. Her list of clients includes the U.S. Department of State, state and federal courts, various government agencies and private corporations throughout the U.S. and Mexico. She has provided training for interpreters, translators, interpreter trainers, medical and courthouse personnel and law enforcement agencies. She is a graduate of the Monterey Institute of International Studies and the Graduate School of Middlebury College. She is also an adjunct professor at MIIS, where she teaches Conference, Court and Medical Interpreting intermittently.

Adele Negro, interpreter

Adele is a Certified Federal and State of California Court Interpreter (Spanish-English), and a Registered Interpreter for French and Italian.  She obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in French language and literature from the University of Michigan and a Masters degree in Conference Interpretation at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, where she is currently adjunct professor in the Graduate Schools of Translation and Interpretation and International Policy and Management. She is a United Nations Interpreter (Freelance) and a U.S. State Department Translator.  She has lived and worked for extended periods of time in Argentina, Chile, El Salvador, East Africa, France and Italy, and currently serves as faculty director of the Monterey Institute’s yearly Sustainable Development Practicum in El Salvador.


2 Comments on “Speakers”

  1. 1 TEDxFruitvale » Blog Archive » Spotlight on speaker Sanjay Rawal’s film-in-progress said at 5:22 pm on September 18th, 2011:

    [...] to be told in the media and in the arts. That’s why we’re proud to have filmmaker Sanjay Rawal. joining us for TEDcxFruitvale to present his documentary-in-progress, Slaves to [...]

  2. 2 Civil Eats » Blog Archive » TEDxFruitvale Puts the Focus on Farmworkers said at 9:01 am on October 18th, 2011:

    [...] and Barry Estabrook; workers rights activists Arturo Rodriguez of the United Farm Workers and Gerardo Reyes-Chavez of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers; and food justice leaders like Nikki Henderson of the [...]