Thursday, December 8, 2011

Registration Opens for Ohio's Largest Sustainable Ag Conference

Registration is now open for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 33rd annual conference, Sowing the Seeds of Our Food Sovereignty, February 18-19, 2012 in Granville, Ohio (Licking County).

The state’s largest sustainable food and farm conference, the event draws more than 1,000 attendees from across Ohio and the Midwest, and has sold out in advance the past two years. This year’s conference will feature keynote speakers Woody Tasch and Andrew Kimbrell; more than 70 informative, hands-on workshops; two featured pre-conference events on February 17; a trade show; a fun and educational kids’ conference and child care area; locally-sourced and organic homemade meals, and Saturday evening entertainment.

“Our conference title says a lot about what we believe and what we’re trying to accomplish,” says OEFFA Program Director Renee Hunt. “Farmers, businesses, chefs, and consumers are working together to reclaim our food sovereignty—rebuilding local food systems and Ohio’s rural farming communities, demanding access to healthy, organic food and information about how that food is produced, and relearning sustainable agriculture practices that nourish our bodies, our communities, and the environment.”

Keynote Speakers
Saturday’s keynote lecture titled, “Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Matter,” will be provided by Woody Tasch. Tasch is the chairman of the Slow Money Alliance and inspired the Slow Money movement by writing Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered.

The Slow Money Alliance advocates for sustainable financial investments that support local, community-based food and farm businesses. So far, $4.5 million has been invested in 16 small food enterprises through Slow Money’s national gatherings. In the last year, $5 million more has been invested through Slow Money chapters.

For 10 years, Tasch was chairman of Investors’ Circle, which has invested $133 million in 200 early stage sustainability businesses since 1992. Tasch also served as treasurer of the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation where, as part of an innovative mission-related venture capital program, a substantial investment was made in Stonyfield Farm, now the world’s largest maker of organic yogurt.

Sunday’s keynote lecture titled, “The Future of Food,” will be provided by Andrew Kimbrell. Kimbrell is one of the country’s leading environmental attorneys and the founder and executive director of the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and the International Center for Technology Assessment (CTA). The Center for Food Safety pursues public education, policy advocacy, and legal actions to curtail industrial agricultural production methods that harm human health and the environment, including genetic engineering.

Kimbrell is author of 101 Ways to Help Save the Earth, The Human Body Shop: The Engineering and Marketing of Life, Your Right to Know: Genetic Engineering and the Secret Changes in Your Food and general editor of Fatal Harvest: The Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture. His articles have appeared in numerous law reviews, technology journals, magazines, and newspapers across the country, and he has been featured in documentary films, including “The Future of Food.” In 1994, Utne Reader named Kimbrell one of the world’s leading 100 visionaries. In 2007, he was named one of the 50 people most likely to save the planet by The Guardian-U.K.

The conference will also feature more than 70 hands-on, educational workshops and cooking demonstrations with topics including: bramble and strawberry production; no-till farming; edible landscaping; pest management; compost; pork, beef, and lamb production; poultry nutrition; food preservation; food safety; social investing; farm and business planning; renewable energy; mushroom production; season extension; mulch; cover crops; aquaculture; dairy health; recordkeeping; Farm Bill policy; co-ops; small space gardening; companion planting; organic certification; fiber production; permaculture; tax planning; genetic engineering; field crops; grassroots organizing; conservation funding; cheesemaking, and more.

In addition, the conference will offer a three part series of workshops about high volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF), commonly known as “fracking,” which is an intensive extraction process that uses a high pressure chemical cocktail to fracture rock to release natural gas. The workshops are designed to educate farmers, landowners, and concerned citizens about the environmental and social risks of this process, existing laws and regulations, and what actions can be taken by landowners and community organizers.

The conference will also offer the following featured conference guests:
- Jeff Moyer, the director of farm operations at the Rodale Institute and an expert on organic crop production, will discuss no-till organic farming, utilizing cover crops to enhance soil fertility, and effective compost management.
- Gary Zimmer, farmer, author, educator, and president of Midwestern Bio-Ag, will discuss nutritional considerations for pasture-based dairy operations.
- Dan Ravicher, a patent law professor and executive director of the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT), will provide an update on a federal lawsuit against Monsanto which seeks preemptive court protection for farmers who may be accused of patent infringement if they become contaminated by Monsanto's genetically engineered seed.

Pre-Conference Events
Two on-site pre-conference events will also be featured on February 17 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The first, “Slow Money for Ohio? Financing the Local Food System,” will feature Slow Money Alliance founder and chairman Woody Tasch and a panel of experts, to talk about Slow Money, the challenges of capitalizing the local food economy, and successful strategies to nurture sustainable food systems and businesses.

The second pre-conference event, “No Till, No Drill, No Problem: Integrating No-Till Methods into Organic Production Systems,” will feature Jeff Moyer, director of farm operations at the Rodale Institute, to discuss practical ways to build soil fertility and tilth, suppress weeds, and manage cover crop rotations, to increase production.

Additional Features
The conference will also feature a kid’s conference offering a variety of exciting workshops for children ages 6-12; a playroom for children under 6; a book signing by Woody Tasch and The Contrary Farmer, Gene Logsdon; an exhibit hall offering an interesting array of information, products, services and resources that relate to sustainable agriculture; a raffle; a non-denominational Sunday service; and Saturday evening entertainment, including a performance by The Back Porch Swing Band and a film screening and discussion of The Greenhorns.

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