2011 PASA Conference: Strength from Our Roots

February 2, 2011

While many are looking to that famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil for signs that spring is near, I’ll look no further than the arrival of the annual Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture’s conference that kicks off today in State College, PA.

This will be the 20th PASA gathering and the theme for this year is; “Strength from Our Roots: Claiming Our Food-System Future” to highlight the relationship between our quality of life and a healthy food system!

Pre-Conference Educational Tracks

Events begin today as some of the pre-conference tracks get off to an early start with sessions focused on Forest Farming, Homesteading 101, Soil Management and Assessment, the Promises and Perils of GMO’s, Sustainability in the Classroom, Alternative Energy on the Farm, and more.

I attended the pre-conference track on Forest Farming last year and learned a lot during the two day program. They’ve added some new topics to the track such as Managing Forests for Wildlife, Growing Native Medicinal Forest Plants for Profit, and Producing Mushrooms using Logs and Biomass.

PASA-bilities Leadership Award Series

This year’s opening keynote speaker is Wes Jackson. Wes has authored various books including; the “New Roots for Agriculture,” “Becoming Native to This Place,” and “An Ecological Approach to a New Agriculture.” Wes also just happened to be a keynote speaker at the very first PASA conference nineteen years ago.

The closing keynote session will introduce the new PASA-bilities Leadership Award Series with messages to be delivered by the winners of the Sustainable Ag Leadership Award and the Sustainable Ag Business Leader Award, with an aim of recognizing and utilizing some of the home grown talent from within the ranks of PASA’s membership.

Sustainable Agriculture Workshops

As always, conference attendees are likely to have a hard time deciding between the many concurrent workshops that will be presented on Friday and Saturday. Topics will include:

•    Dig This! Farm & Garden Tools That Work for Women

•    Getting the Most Nutrition from Your Harvest

•    Fossil-Free Agriculture: Kicking Farming’s Addiction to Oil

•    Getting Started with Beekeeping Organically

•    Developing & Integrating Outdoor Classrooms at Your School

•    Family Fish Farming for Fun & Food

•    Swap Your Seeds: What to Know Before You Get Started

•    Human-Powered, Low-Input Vegetable Production System

•    Walk Through the Orchard Season

•    Advantages of Movable High Tunnel Technology

High on my list are the sessions on beekeeping, seed saving, and school gardening programs. Then there are the potentially charged discussions; “Let’s Talk GMO’s,” “Save Our Seeds (SOS): Strategies to Curb Corporate Control & Promote Local Control,” and the “Corporate Takeover of Organic/Sustainable Agriculture – Who Owns the Organic Label & Controls Local Food?”

New Events at the 2011 PASA Conference

Bring along a few of your favorite heirloom seeds as there is a seed swap being organized for the first time. Also new on the schedule this year is a New and Beginning Farmers Mixer that will be held on Thursday evening. Those of you interested in fiber crafts may want to head over the knitting circle to learn a new stitch or two.

Don’t forget about the usual PASA auctions, youth programs, ag venders and displays, great food, regional breakout sessions, the winter picnic, a sustainable film theater, and plenty of music including performances by Philadelphia-based Hoots & Hellmouth!

Lots of good stuff for sure, so if you’re in the Central PA region it’s definitely an educational and worthwhile event with a great crowd of farmers, gardeners, families, and friends gathered to learn and share information and practices related to sustainable agriculture. For more information and to see the entire schedule you can download the conference brochure.

I hope to see you there if you can attend!

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