“One of the challenges facing agriculture is that people take their food for granted. And when you take your food for granted you make bad choices about agriculture…We’re losing the ability to feed ourselves.”
Those insights come from Kevin Engelbert’s closing keynote address for last weekend’s Northeast Organic Farming Association’s (NOFA) New York winter conference. Kevin was the first ever organic dairy farmer in the U.S.
I got to spend last weekend at the conference in Saratoga Springs along with an amazing group of well over a thousand farmers and food activists. I was there to teach a food preservation workshop.
I also got to share a drink and a conversation with my Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farmer, Ted Blomgren of Windflower Farm. I ran into Nancy and Alan, my main meat farmers from Lewis Waite Farm, Paula Lukats of Just Food, Melissa Danielle of Honey Bee Holistic.
(I’m doing a foraging tour for Honey Bee in April–it’ll be on the updated class and event list I will be posting, um, really, really soon.)
Taking a workshop on how to build your own “self-watering” container meant that I got to bring one of those contraptions home. This easy and cheap to make container is the equivalent of the pricey “Earth Boxes.” I’ve experienced the high yield the latter gives, and am excited to try out this homespun version.
I was so psyched to learn about StolorOrganics veg oil made from locally grown sunflower seeds that I lugged a a quart of it home with me (along with the self-watering container and the heap of canning gear I’d brought with me). Tip: their latest batch will be available in 1-2 months, and the farmer told me that it tested with a super-high smoke point, higher than previous batches.
There was a wonderfully enthusiastic and optimistic energy at the conference. Perhaps that buoyancy was needed to balance all of the essential discussions about the major issues tethered to agriculture today.
When talking about the challenges facing sustainable and organic farming, Kevin Engelbert pointed out that the modern concept that the highest, best use for land is development is dangerous and false: “Any piece of land that can grow something has reached the peak of its development,” he said, contrasting that point of view with the one that considers farming a temporary land use until the land can be sold, paved over, built upon.
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