Speakers 2021

Odette Ménard

Engineer and Agronomist, Advisor in Soil and Water Conservation, Ministry of Agriculture of Québec (MAPAQ)


Odette Ménard is an agricultural engineer from Ste-Hyacinthe in Quebec who has become the first woman to be admitted on the Conservation Hall of Fame of the Soil Conservation Council of Canada (CCSC). Along the years, Ms. Ménard has had a major role in the promotion of soil conservation in the southwest region of Quebec. She has participated actively in many councils, associations and clubs focused on soil health and conservation.

Walter Jehne

Climate Scientist & Microbiologist


Walter Jehne is an internationally known Australian soil microbiologist and climate scientist. After many years as a researcher, he is now a sought after speaker and consultant for land restoration projects and policy work. He is well-known for his strategic vision that we can safely cool regions, and potentially even the global climate, by working with nature to repair our disrupted hydrological cycles. His work centers around practical strategies including restoring the structure and function of “the soil sponge” in order to reverse desertification, increase nutritional integrity of crops, and provide resilience to drought, flooding, heatwaves, and wildfires.

Jehne was a pioneering researcher on soil carbon, glomalin, mycorrhizal fungi and plant root zone ecology. As a research scientist at CSIRO (Australia’s scientific research organization), Jehne investigated the potential of mycorrhizal fungi to recolonize toxic, degraded soils and rebuild productive biosystems.

He is co-founder of Regenerate Earth, Healthy Soils Australia, and the Rehydrate California Initiative, and serves as an advisor and teacher with the Land and Leadership Initiative. In 2017, he participated in an invitation-only United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization conference in Paris aimed at bringing soil into the next Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. He is a scientific consultant for large-scale regeneration efforts in several countries, including the UN FAO Farmer Field School Programme, and the Andhra Pradesh community-managed Natural Farming initiative (APCNF) in India, involving over 750,000 farmers.

As a consultant and public speaker, he is known for his ability to explain the complex interrelationships between biology, geology, weather patterns, rainfall, and regional and global heat dynamics, with clear simple language, centered around practical and innovative design solutions.

Didi Pershouse

Educator & Author, Center for Sustainable Medicine


Didi Pershouse is the author of The Ecology of Care: Medicine, Agriculture, Money, and the Quiet Power of Human and Microbial Communities and Understanding Soil Health and Watershed Function. She teaches participatory workshops both in-person and online, helping to show the nested relationships between soil health, human health, water cycles, and climate resiliency. She is the founder of the Land and Leadership Initiative and the Center for Sustainable Medicine, and a co-founder of the "Can we Rehydrate California?" Initiative. She is an independent trainer and curriculum developer for the UN-FAO Farmer Field School Program and the Andhra Pradesh Community Managed Natural Farming Initiative in India. She was one of five speakers at the United Nations-FAO World Soil Day in 2017.

Michael Blackstock

Independent Indigenous Scholar


Michael D. Blackstock (Gitxsan name: Ama Goodim Gyet) is a writer and visual artist. He has written over 20 publications and produced over a dozen limited-edition northwest coast art prints. Michael is currently the artist in residence at the Echo Valley Ranch and Spa, Jesmond, BC, where he carved faces on living trees, as spiritual guardians for the water springs. Blackstock has a Master of Arts in First Nations Studies and he has served as a member of the UNESCO-IHP Expert Advisory Group on Water and Cultural Diversity. He is also a professional forester and a charted mediator. Michael was mentored by his uncle Walter Harris as a northwest coast carver.

Blackstock’s recent book Oceaness is a book of social commentary that includes poems, essays and art works. It includes his new theory of Blue Ecology which was developed with Elders, by interweaving their perspective with that of Western Science. The themes of this book are water; ecology; oral history; human rights; music; and humour.

Precious Phiri

Facilitator, Regeneration International


Precious Phiri is a facilitator and accredited professional in holistic management. She is also a steering committee member and African coordinator for Regeneration International. Her work involves networking, bringing communal work to global platforms, community organizing, and working with rural communities to fight and reverse poverty, and ecological degeneration. Precious has experience working with agro-pastoral and pastoralist communities implementing holistic management tools for rangeland and crop field regeneration, and she continues to engage in the broader regenerative agriculture movement as a trainer from Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.

Takota Coen

Farmer, Coen Farm


Takota Coen is the co-author of "Building Your Permaculture Property: A 5 Step Process To Design and Develop Land", an educator with Verge Permaculture, and co-owner of Coen Farm, a 250 acre award winning permaculture farm, in Alberta, Canada. Coen Farm is known for using Earthworks and farm design principles that increase the presence of water on land, and therefore the farm’s resilience.

Judith D. Schwartz

Journalist & Author, Water in Plain Sight


Judith D. Schwartz is a journalist based in Vermont who focuses on nature-based solutions to global challenges. Her most recent book is 'The Reindeer Chronicles and Other Inspiring Stories of Working With Nature to Heal the Earth'. She is also known for her books: 'Cows Save the Planet' and 'Water in Plain Sight: Hope for a Thirsty World'.

Jon Griggs

Ranch Manager, Maggie Creek Ranch


Maggie Creek Ranch is a beef cow-calf and stocker operation in the high desert of Elko County Nevada.  Jon Griggs is the Ranch Manager of Maggie Creek Ranch with responsibility for all aspects of the Ranch.  He also serves as President Elect of the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association who functions to promote a dynamic and profitable Nevada Beef Industry.  He was named Cattleman of the year for the Association in 2015 and in 2016, Maggie Creek was awarded the National Environmental Stewardship Award and Jon has since been invited all over the Country to speak of Maggie Creek’s conservation efforts.  Griggs worked at various ranches in Nevada before joining Maggie Creek in 1991.  He started there as a Cowboy and was promoted to Cowboss then Manager in 1998.  He has been active in the community, serving as an EMT-I with Elko County Ambulance Service, serving on various Resource or Agriculture related advisory boards and serving youth sports/4-H activities.  Griggs lives at the Maggie Creek Ranch Headquarters West of Elko with his wife Shellie and has two children Wyatt and Mackie.

Mary Anne Caibaiosai

Anishnaabe Knowledge Holder, Artist, Counsellor, PhD Candidate


Boozhoo Nindawemagaanidoog. Nodin Ikwe ndizhnikaaz, mkwa ndodem. Wiikwemkoong Manido minissing ndoonjibaa. Peterborough megwa ndaaw. My English name is Mary Anne Caibaiosai. I am Ojibwe-Anishnaabe kwe Bear clan from Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, Manitoulin Island. I carry life teachings passed from Anishnaabe Elders, ceremonial and traditional teachers. In addition to ceremonial responsibilities, I help in the community as a counsellor and offer teachings.

In 2017, I was given Water walk teachings, a copper pail and the blessings and protocols from the late Josephine Mandamin, the first Anishnaabe water walker. She is known for her tireless work to raise awareness of the waters, through walking the Great Lakes and rivers of Turtle Island. I am now honoured to continue her work; to walk, pray for and raise awareness of the sacredness of the water. In 2021 the Grand River Water Walkers will complete the four year ceremonial commitment for the Grand River, but there is more work to do.

In addition to traditional Anishnaabe teachings, I carry a Master of Social Work and Indigenous studies degree from Wilfrid Laurier University; a Bachelor of First Nations and Aboriginal Counselling degree from Brandon University, and I am currently a PhD Candidate at Trent University in Peterborough. I speak for the waters when asked, as she is life; without water, we would not be here.