PASA Farm Conference 2007

February 19, 2007

I recently wrote an article about the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture and the work that they are doing to support natural farming and to ensure the integrity of our food supply.

Many of the educational programs and agricultural information that PASA offers are also useful to small market growers and even backyard vegetable gardeners.

This year’s 16th Annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference held on February 1-3, 2007 was a perfect example of what PASA has to offer the home gardener. Today I wanted to share more about what took place at this year’s conference and at some of the special programs that were presented.

Farming for the Future Conference

This Sustainable Agriculture Conference was loaded with interesting speakers, exhibits, and workshops related to organic farming, natural and bio-dynamic gardening, and other methods of raising healthy food in an environmentally responsible manner.

We’re not talking about a small event, as there were a couple thousand people circulating around the Penn Stater Conference Center. And it was an extremely friendly and social group to hang out with. Here are a few of the highlights that I noted.

First of all the PASA gathering was a great opportunity to meet, greet, and mingle with lots of friendly folks that were passionate about organic gardening or sustainable agriculture.

There were farmers, backyard gardeners, educators, organic food wholesalers and retailers, authors, and various agriculture related business people that all shared an interest in growing plants and producing good food for their customers, families, and friends to enjoy.

Sustainable Agriculture Conference Sponsors

One thing that I was pleasantly surprised to see was the role played by Penn State University at this year’s conference. Not only was Penn State a sponsor of the event, but they also had numerous staff in attendance and even presented some of the conference workshops.

It’s great to find the academic world taking note of organic farming and even participating in an area that not long ago was taboo and not given much credibility. Penn State has really stepped up their efforts in regards to research related to organic growing methods and has even developed an organic apple research initiative and orchard in Adam’s County, PA.

West Virginia University was also a sponsor and was represented in force at the PASA sustainable agriculture conference. Other sponsors included: the Rodale Institute, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Albert’s Organics, Eat ‘n Park Restaurants, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Whole Foods Market, and the Tuscarora Organic Growers Coop.

Pre-Conference Programs

A number of pre-conference learning tracks were held on February 1, 2007 to provide participants with a full day of information and hand’s on experience dealing with a diverse range of topics related to sustainable agriculture.

Some of the pre-conference program tracks focused on the business needs of both future and experienced farmers through workshops on Strategic Business Planning, and the Secrets of Successful Marketing. There was also a track devoted specifically to ideas and skills needed by new and beginning farmers, and a Sustainable Ag in the Classroom session for K-8 teachers.

On the practical organic farming side there were all-day programs covering Equipment Maintenance and Repair, The Art of Cheese Making, Seed Saving, and an Apple Grower’s Intensive. There was also a PASA pre-conference track on the Link Between Nutrition and Agriculture that delved into the connection between our health and the food that we eat.

Tomorrow I’ll wrap up my impressions on the Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture’s 16th Annual Conference with a review of my favorite part of the conference; the lectures and some of the incredible speakers and sustainable agriculture experts that were represented at this year’s event.

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