stuff of interest from PASA farming for the future conference 2009

Submitted by Susan Miller on Tue, 02/10/2009 - 13:01.

PASA Conference 2009 cover

Last Thursday evening I headed east to State College, Pennsylvania for the PASA Conference - Farming for the Future: The Worldwide Search for Food Sovereignty: Finding Your Foodshed. PASA stands for Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture and this was their 18th Annual Conference.

I was astounded to see the wide range of folks there; over 2000 people. They ranged in age, ethnicity, religious affiliation and geographic area. I believe the Executive Director said that there were people from 15 states and 6 countries in attendance. The conference was well run and there was something for everyone. This was not just a conference for farmers. Also in attendance were folks engaged in food policy, market management, IT, education, sustainability, urban and rural and suburban growing. Some were there because they grow for themselves, others grow for markets, still others don't grow at all, but are concerned about food sovereignty.

The keynote speaker was Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved. He got us going with a mass of information about how our US food policy is driving not only the ruination of our own people, but those in the developing world as well.

I was amazed at the organization of the event, with locally sourced food at each meal, a wonderful and huge auction of locally sourced food and farm items and many many tables set up along the corridors, a vendor section with textiles, books, herbals, and even shitake mushroom inoculated logs that were being explained to the buyers by an elderly vendor with great enthusiasm.  Knowledge was being shared freely and constantly.

Like many conferences one could not attend all the sessions, so I had to guess at what might benefit me. Here are some links to the top three sessions I attended with some notes.

Small Farms, Large Markets: Building Supply, Distribution and Market to Transition Conventional Growers to Organic

Anthony Flaccavento, Appalachian Sustainable Development, VA

They were featured on NOW on PBS: Growing Local, Eating Local

This PBS program is a good recap of what Flaccavento covered in detail at rapid fire pace in two hours. The most impressive aspect of what he has accomplished is the farm to market effort, with grading and packaging they market certified organic locally grown food to local restaurants and also to local grocers. The program is sustaining the farmers, the soil, water and air of their region. The really good news is that Flaccavento is retiring from ASD and will be available to teach others how to implement the methodologies.

Small Space Community Food Production

Claire Baker & City Harvest Project, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, PA

What is amazing here is that City Harvest works with the Philadelphia Correctional facilities and teaches prisoners to grow seedlings which are then delivered to local community gardens (there are over 400 of them in Philly) for growing. The community gardeners in turn send some of what they grow to the Foodbank in Philly supplying fresh locally grown produce to underserved families.

Year-Round Backyard Mini-Farming: Food with the Least Fossil Fuel and Footprint

Tania Slawecki & Gene Bazan, Neo-Terra, PA

This was amazing! Using crop rotation in space and time, double digging of the beds to retain water, composting of everything including human waste, with no animals, this couple grows 90% of their food ( a vegetarina diet) on their PA suburban lot which was originally beset with rocky clay soil - 18 beds, 2,250 sq. ft. of improved soil beds.

In addition, I met a few folks from Cleveland and Northeast Ohio I had not met here. Amy Matthews who directs the Green Corps at Cleveland Botanical Garden, Nicole Wright from OSU Extension Community Gardening and Urban Agriculture and Darwin Kelsey from the Countryside Conservancy. I was there with my farmer friends from Snake Hill Farm, Savery Rorimer and Taylor Maida. There was a hopeful feeling in the air, so much information was flying around, raw milk, food sovereignty, buy local, vegetarians, meat eaters, polyculture farming, viticulture, chicken tractors, cover crop guidance, you name it - more than I could take in.

At the end of the conference the issue of caring for your watershed was discussed in the closing keynote by Bernard Sweeney, Director, President and Senior Research Scientist for the Stroud Water Research Center in Avondale, PA. Amazingly almost no one had left early; the room was full as people listened carefully about keeping pesticides and herbicides out of the stream, preparing riparian corridors for their waterways, and keeping farm animals out of the streams. The importance of clean water is tantamount to these people who toil year round to improve their soil, their health and the health of their neighbors.


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what info!

Thank you for sharing all of this, Susan. I'm going to take my time going through all the links the next few days - wOw!

I love Penn State - I lived there from first to fifth grade. Surrounded by mountains and lots of fresh air! The cover image is very beautiful. It looks like Huichol thread painting, or at least Huichol-style! Welcome home and thanks again!

I think the cover image is a Mola...


Images here: 


By refusing to deal honorably with others, you dishonor yourself.

yes, inspired by molas

The 2009 conference artist is Elody Gyekis. Click through to learn how the conference art was developed.



This is terrific - and yet punctuates how behind the curve we can and will fall yet again as conservative laggards when it comes to innovation, risk-taking, genuine collaboration, etc. Thanks for sharing this great information. Clearly I am not a farmer or grower but have an interest in delving into herbalogy (already have) and can see so many opportunities from this effort that everyone can succeed together. Lets continue to compile it, from all sources regionally, nationally, globally. Then lets integrate all these 'best of' assets and add our unique realneo twist. If we compile all of these, collectively as a whole community and discuss them at sessions like the upcoming one at Trinity, perhaps we'll derive that solution that helps and profits all of us.