2017 Keynote Speakers


Shirley M. Sherrod

Shirley Sherrod was born in Baker County, Georgia, on November 20, 1947, to Hosea and Grace Miller. Her father was a deacon at the local Baptist church. A white farmer shot him to death, reportedly over a dispute about livestock. No charges were returned against the shooter by an all-white grand jury. The tragic murder of Shirley Sherrod’s father when she was 17-years-old had a profound impact on her and was a turning point in her life and she vowed, on the night of her father’s death, to stay in the South to work for change.

She attended Fort Valley State College beginning in September 1965. She was there for two years and then transferred to Albany State where she received her bachelor’s degree. There she studied sociology while also working for civil rights with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) where she met her husband, Reverend Charles Sherrod. Read More



Matthew Raiford

CheFarmer Matthew Raiford is currently the Executive Chef of Little St. Simons Island a private resort located off the coast of Georgia accessed only by boat. He is also a farmer who has returned home to Brunswick, Georgia to become a sixth generation farmer on his families’ land that they have owned since 1874. He has a Bachelor’s of Professional Studies degree in Culinary Arts from The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.  CheFarmer also holds a certificate in Ecological Horticulture from UC Santa Cruz and The Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS).  Read More



Leni Sorensen

Leni Sorensen is a culinary historian, consultant, speaker, event planner, writer, hearth cook, teacher of Rural Life Skills: canning, gardening, cooking, and raising small livestock. From her home in Central Virginia, Leni has enjoyed the past twenty-five years of working in the world of the historic house museums, colleges and universities, community fairs and festivals using material culture and foodways to teach the history of African Americans (free and enslaved), farmers, and women from the 17th to 20th centuries.





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