Farming Conference Focuses on a Sustainable American Food System

Highlights from the recent Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture conference included the topic of developing a sustainable American food system.

| June/July 2002

The Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture conference shines a light on developing a sustainable American food system.

This report by MOTHER contributing editor George De Vault provides highlights from the recent Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture conference. Dozens of similarly inspiring meetings are taking place across the continent as more and more people work to build a sustainable American food system. These meetings are great places to learn hog; to garden or faun, and to meet neighbors who share your interest in living wisely.

The idea of holding a Farming for the Future Conference started out as a test. With the U.S. government's emphasis on cheap food and industrialized farming, organizers wondered, were there enough people interested in sustainable agriculture to form a statewide group devoted to better food and farming practices?

The answer came when 500 people showed up at the first conference in 1992. The meeting was being held on the campus of Pennsylvania State University, a land grant college. State officials had no choice but to put in at least a token appearance.

"The turnout came as a slight surprise to organizers, but I think it came as a thunderbolt to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and others," recalled Cass Peterson, who helped organize the conference.

"For me, what was most memorable about the first conference alas the excitement of meeting scores — no, hundreds — of other like-minded farmers who had practical knowledge, experience and enthusiasm, and were eager to share it. Most sustainable or organic farmers operated then — and still do — as a distinct minority in their counties.

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