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Environmental Summit: Agroecology & Community Centered Agriculture

January 18, 2024 @ 8:30 am - 12:00 pm

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DuPage Environmental Summit:
Agroecology & Community Centered Agriculture


The virtual DuPage Environmental Summit is back on Thursday, January 18th on Zoom at 8:30am CST! Our topic this year is “Agroecology & Community Centered Agriculture,” but regardless of whether you live or work in DuPage County, you’re sure to be energized by the wealth of information shared on how residents and communities can increase their climate impact by growing and sourcing healthy food locally and equitably, guided by and in tune with our local ecology. The Summit is free and open to everyone, but you must register at the Zoom link below.


View the full agenda here!

View all Summit resources here!


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This year’s keynote speaker is Gary Oppenheimer, Founder and Executive Director of! Nationally recognized game changer in the landscape of food waste, hunger, and disruptive innovations, Gary Oppenheimer is a thought leader in the hunger/food waste space who creates solutions that are sustained in impact and can scale to any/every community in real-time. He is a CNN Hero, a World Food Prize nominee, Points of Light winner, lecturer, and speaker (including two TEDx talks) – plus a Google Tech Talk, Huff Post “2011 Game Changer” and “Greatest Person of the Day,” James Beard Foundation Food Waste Advisory Board member, winner of the Russell Berrie Foundation’s “Making A Difference” award, Glynwood’s “Wave of the Future” award, Elfenworks “In Harmony With Hope” award, and a Purpose Prize Fellow. He has worked with the Obama and Biden White House, the USDA, the United Nations secretariat, and more, and he’s done this from a home office in the woods of rural northern NJ long before COVID made that “normal.”




Welcome Remarks

Brook McDonald, President/CEO, The Conservation Foundation
Shelia Rutledge, Environmental Committee Chair, DuPage County Board
Barb Szczepaniak, Vice President for Programs, DuPage Foundation 


Agro-what? Introduction to Agroecology with Q&A with a Farmer

Connie Kollmeyer, Agroecology Educator, The Conservation Foundation
Q&A with Russell Cerocke, Farm Manager, Green Earth Harvest

Connie will discuss how agroecology is more than ecological agricultural practices or studying and caring for the ecology of a garden or farm. Agroecology focuses on the ecology of the whole food system, the environment, and the people in it and in doing so, improves the health of the community across spectrums. She will be joined by Green Earth Harvest Farm Manager, Russell Cerocke, who will discuss how agroecology is integrated into practices at the farm.


Empowering Farmers and Eaters to Create Food Systems Change

Liz Moran Stelk, Executive Director, Illinois Stewardship Alliance

The Illinois Stewardship Alliance is farmer-driven and eater-powered, working closely with farms to identify and untangle the deep-rooted issues in our food system and with eaters to use their purchasing and collective power to create change. Liz will share the Alliance’s work and success stories such as the Right to Garden Act which provides essential protections for small-scale growers to grow food for themselves and their families.


Rethinking the Power of Gardeners: How Gardeners, Information, and Community Can Revolutionize Hunger & Food Waste

Gary Oppenheimer, Founder and Executive Director,

Gary will discuss looking at food, health and climate problems through a different lens in an effort to find the root cause solution. He’ll explore why a country with vast surpluses of food still has hunger and malnutrition and how home gardeners can play an integral role in creating a vibrant local food system. Lastly, he’ll cover how tech-based, information solutions can strengthen food distribution within communities and help us think differently about food.




Agroecology in the Suburbs: A community-based approach to Sustainability

Lindsay Zimmerman, President, Sustain DuPage

 Most people look to either the city or further afield to find examples of agroecology in action, but it has a place in the suburbs too. For the past decade, Sustain DuPage has been centering community in its efforts to create sustainable change in DuPage County. We’ll explore the different ways people, the environment, and agriculture have come together through our various mission projects to make a difference on the local level.


Conservation@Home: How Agroecology Benefits Your Home Gardens

Kyla Muhammad, Will County Program Director, The Conservation Foundation
Kat Gerdts, Administrative Coordinator, Kane-DuPage Soil and Water District

Learn about The Conservation Foundation’s Conservation@Home program and the synergies of supporting native plants, wildlife, and food resilience in your home landscape whether growing in the ground, raised beds, or containers, and opportunities for funding assistance. We’ll discuss how applying an agroecological approach to your food and pollinator gardens reduces climate impacts and promotes abundance, soil health, and water conservation.  


Everything Local: Farming, Flowers, & Food

Frankie Garcia, Owner, Chicago St. Sunflower Co. & Member, Elgin Sustainability Commissioner, & The Conservation Foundation’s Next Gen Council

Frankie will tell his story of starting a local urban farm and highlight how his local community has been the key to their success.


Partnerships in Food Security

Dan Lobbes, Vice President of Land & Watershed Programs, The Conservation Foundation
Scott LaMorte, Vice President of Business Development, Itasca Bank & Trust Co.

 Dan will showcase Green Earth Harvest’s work with food pantries around DuPage and Will counties, highlighting the growing need for fresh produce for food pantry clients, why it matters where the vegetables come from, and the impact of 2023 farm-to-pantry pilot program. The Conservation Foundation’s Green Earth Harvest program has grown and distributed organic produce from their Naperville farm to 5 food pantries in DuPage County and one in Will County. 


Closing Remarks 


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Thanks to our sponsors:


DuPage Foundation logo 2021

DuPage County logo

Bedrock Earthscapes logo

CBBEL logo


January 18, 2024
8:30 am - 12:00 pm
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