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iSEE Critical Conversation 2023: Climate-Smart Agricultural Practices and Resilience in the Midwest

Monday-Tuesday, Sept. 18-19, 2023, Illini Center, Chicago

For its fifth Critical Conversation, iSEE will bring together diverse stakeholders for a two-day forum to discuss climate-smart commodities and agricultural practices, and their potential role in enhancing resilience in the Midwest. Stakeholders from across the agricultural supply chain, such as farmers, intermediate producers, food distributors, and consumers, as well as academics, industry, government, and nongovernment experts, will provide their perspectives on the resilience of current commodity crops and agricultural practices — and the potential opportunities and risks associated with the wider adoption of alternative crops and climate-smart agricultural strategies. The experts will also identify possible incentives and strategies for the wider adoption of climate-smart agriculture and commodities and reimagining a new status quo in the context of a changing climate.


The Conversation will be preceded by a keynote from Maggie Monast, Senior Director for Climate-Smart Agriculture at the Environmental Defense Fund.

By following the Chatham House Rule for Critical Conversations, we aim to have an inclusive and engaging discussion to inform future research and initiate a collaborative network that will continue to consider multiple perspectives in a research agenda geared toward finding actionable solutions. After the two-day event, we aim to develop a high-profile publication that outlines a collaborative vision for a structured research program and innovative research projects that can deliver regional solutions to this critical issue.

Critical Conversations are supported by a gift from the Alvin H. Baum Family Fund, iSEE’s founding benefactor, administered by Joel Friedman and Loretta Namovic.

A team consisting of academics and industry collaborators is organizing this Critical Conversation:

  • Shadi Atallah, Associate Professor of Agriculture & Consumer Economics, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Jean Brokish, Midwest Deputy Director, American Farmland Trust
  • Travis Burke, Assistant Dean of Agriculture & Agri-Business, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Jonathan Coppess, Associate Professor of Agriculture & Consumer Economics and Director of the Gardner Agriculture Policy Program, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Paul Gharzouzi, graduate student in Civil Engineering and iSEE Graduate Educational Research Intern, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Emily Heaton, Professor of Crop Sciences and Director of the Illinois Regenerative Agriculture Initiative, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Madhu Khanna, Professor of Agriculture & Consumer Economics and iSEE Director, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Anya Knecht, Assistant Director of Operations at the Illinois Regenerative Agriculture Initiative, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Michelle Marquart, Events and Client Relations Coordinator at iSEE, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Elizabeth Murphy, iSEE Managing Director, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Luis Rodríguez, Associate Professor of Agricultural & Biological Engineering and iSEE Associate Director for Education & Outreach, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Katherine Sterlau, postdoctoral student in Crop Sciences, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Process consultant and Facilitator Sarah Fisk, Senior Consultant, Community At Work


The event will include a public keynote on the evening of Monday, Sept. 18, followed by a day-long workshop on Sept.19, at which invited participants will tackle the myriad issues of climate-smarter commodities in the Midwest. The event will be hosted at the Illini Center in Chicago.

AGENDA: Coming soon!

Coming soon!


The Critical Conversation public keynote and panel discussions for invitees are at the Illini Center, 200 S. Wacker Drive, 19th Floor, Chicago, IL 60606.