Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Some Food For Thought

This past Saturday I attended the 32nd annual CT NOFA Winter Conference which was held at Western Connecticut State University right here in Danbury. My head and my heart are still swirling after a day of soaking up knowledge as well as inspiration.


With over 900 people in attendance, the conference is Connecticut's largest food, agriculture and sustainability conference. It was a day packed with workshops for regular folks like me to experienced farmers. There also were over 70 vendors and exhibitors featuring local food, crafts, sustainability initiatives and more. Lunch was provided by top restaurants like Le Farm/The Whelk, Sugar + Olives, Green Leaf Organic Bakery, Stanziato's Wood Fired Pizza and more.

I spied one of my favorite local farmers,  John Holbrook
at the conference.
The entire conference had an aura of community and passion. It was kind of contagious. I'm even more dedicated to supporting my local farmers and sustainable agriculture as well as reinvigorated about growing my own. Now that I'm armed with some extra knowledge, I think my garden is going to be better than ever this year.

Farmer philosopher Fred Kirschenmann delivered the conference's
keynote speech about the future of farming.
I wanted to share with you a few notes from the conference keynote speaker, Fred Kirschenmann. He is a Distinguished Fellow for the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University and President of Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, NY. He also owns a 2600-acre biodynamic farm in North Dakota. His talk entitled "Tomorrow's Farmer + You" discussed the challenges facing agriculture, the work that's currently being done to meet those challenges, and how consumers play an important role.
  • We have to be in this together. Over the last 100 years we've developed a food system where farmers grow it, others process it and all we do is eat it. Consumers are totally passive in this system.
  • In order to face the challenges facing tomorrow's farmers we need to shift the paradigm.
  • The questions shouldn't be "How are we going to feed the world?" It should be more like "How are we going to feed ourselves?" We all have a role to play.
  • The challenges facing farmers will touch us all. Things like the end of cheap energy, limited natural resources and climate change.
  • A few stand-put examples of challenges that are already surfacing:
    • We have this notion that water is free and unlimited but there are limits. The main aquifer in the heartland has been drawn down by 50% and some farmers can no longer irrigate their land. This is water that came from the ice age, it's slow to replenish. Studies predict that in twenty years the aquifer will be dried up!
    • The average age of farmers is 58.3 years old. Who's going to produce the food we need as these farmers retire?
  • We need to snap ourselves out of this state of "dreamy belief" in order to prepare to meet these challenges. These challenges can be "moments of grace" that will energize us to make change.
  • We need to shift from thinking of "food as a thing" to "food as a relationship."
    • Farmers Markets and CSAs are a great example of this shift in thinking. With a CSA consumers are sharing the risk and reward with the farmer. At farmer's markets consumers talk to the people growing the food. There's an understanding and appreciation - a relationship.
    • Local food is not so much about food miles, but rather it's an active relationship between farmer and consumer. People are taking ownership.
These are just a few of the things that really struck me during his talk. I think they are good nuggets of thought for all of us.

Why do you Buy Local?
What do you think? How are you or will you be more active when it comes to food?

If you'd like to learn more, visit CT NOFA at www.ctnofa.org.

3 comments:

  1. well, done, Alicia. couldn't have said it better myself! NOFA events are always inspiring.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you. This was my first time at the winter conference and I am so glad I went.

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  2. Great conference. So exciting that they set a new attendance record! Enjoyed meeting everyone and speaking about beekeeping in top bar hives.
    -- Christy Hemenway
    Goldstarhoneybees.com

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