FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 5, 2009
PASA Seeks Sustainable Strategies for Farmers, Consumers at Annual Conference
The Worldwide Search for Food Sovereignty: Finding Your Foodshed
18th Annual Farming for the Future Conference
February 4-7, 2009 – Penn Stater Conference Center, State College, PA
MILLHEIM, PA – The Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture’s (PASA) 18th annual Farming for the Future conference, one of the largest and most respected gatherings of sustainable ag enthusiasts anywhere in the world and the best domestic venue for farmers to learn about alternative agricultural strategies, will be held Wednesday through Saturday, February 4 to 7 at the Penn Stater Conference Center in State College, PA. This year’s theme, The Worldwide Search for Food Sovereignty: Finding Your Foodshed, is designed to tap into the widespread public interest in learning more about our food — including where it comes from, how it is produced and its impact on our land and our communities.
The relatively new concept of “foodshed,” used to describe the overall concept of food security, i.e. the ability of communities anywhere, to acquire their nutritional needs from local and regional production and processing networks, and ability of a consumer to make free and informed choices about food and the food security of one’s community, otherwise known as “food sovereignty,” are the seminal concepts of the conference. Making these terms central to the conference theme creates a unique opportunity for farmers to learn more about how to identify their local customer bases and the popular methods used to meet local and regional demand for wholesome, sustainably produced food.
“In many ways, we have surrendered our food choices to a system that is built for the sake of extracting profits for the few in the name of providing cheap food for the many,” said PASA Executive Director Brian Snyder, in elaborating on this year’s conference theme. He added, “The solution goes far beyond a superficial effort to just ‘look harder for the good stuff,’ and reaches a place where we as a community must be intentional about defining our ‘foodshed’ and insisting on the sovereignty to make choices that will reformulate and strengthen it for our families and communities well into the future.”
Conference keynote presenters include journalist and activist Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved, who will provide a global perspective on food sovereignty issues, and Bernard Sweeney, senior research scientist and director of the Stroud™ Water Research Center (Avondale, PA), who will underscore the critical connection between our “foodsheds” and the health of the “watersheds” in which we live. Addresses by PASA leaders and others will interest anyone who follows food and farming policy for Pennsylvania or the nation.
The conference is comprised of 13 pre-conference tracks and more than 75 individual workshops. Topics of interest to consumers and farmers alike, will range from weed management to advanced cheesemaking, grassfed beef and high-quality vegetable production to raw milk permitting and sales, sustainable forestry and the connection between water quality and streamside forests. A trade-show, the regional 2009 Sustainable Ag Leadership awards banquet, the Sustainable Marketplace, FarmArts displays, programs for youth and teens, as well as music and PASA’s first job fair, complete the program at this farm-centered and farmer-driven event.
In thinking about the event, which promises to draw 2,000+ attendees from the U.S. and abroad, Executive Director Snyder said, “We prepare to gather this year having experienced in recent months some of the most extraordinary events in American history. We could hardly have guessed back in the summer just how relevant our theme would seem by winter. For years, keynote speakers at our conferences have warned of the potential collapse of a global economy that values commodities more than communities, and now it is suddenly more relevant than ever to begin thinking in earnest about where our food comes from, how it is produced and what channels we must go through to obtain it.” But the words “change” and “hope” are not new to this community – as a nationally respected voice for sustainable food and farming systems, PASA leaders have asserted, sometimes amidst controversy, that a better path exists, particularly if we pledge to learn from and help each other along the way.
PASA is the only statewide, member-based, sustainable farming organization in Pennsylvania and is one of the largest in the nation. Through its history, membership in the organization has grown steadily, reaching approximately 1,000 at the ten-year point, and now almost 5,000. Approximately two-thirds of PASA members are farmers who support the organization’s mission “to promote profitable farms that produce healthy food for all people while respecting the natural environment.” For more information, go to: www.pasafarming.org.