Snapshot of Sustainable Agriculture Conference

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

img_3329I recently attended the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association Sustainable Agriculture Conference in North Carolina. It was an outstanding three-day conference, which included workshops, delicious local food, farm and food policy discussions, a seed exchange, and tons of exhibitors. While the conference was focused primarily on sustainable agriculture in North and South Carolina, I think that much of the information would be useful to food producers and sustainable agriculture enthusiasts across the country.

There was also a nice mix of topics discussed, which I thought would be helpful not only for farmers of all scales but also for homesteaders, food and farm policy advocates, chefs, educators, and others.

Keynote Presenter

Clara Coleman (organic farmer, writer, and the daughter of Eliot Coleman) delivered the keynote address ‘Building Sustainable Farming Legacies’ as well as a presentation about ‘Maximizing Productivity with Four-Season Farming’. Unfortunately, the slides aren’t available for her second presentation but her website as well as Eliot Coleman’s books such as The New Organic GrowerFour-Season Harvest, and The Winter Harvest Handbook provide guidance on their growing methods.

Workshop Resources

You can access many of the presentation slides and handouts here. Just a few of the presentations, which I thought would be particularly interesting for homesteaders and small-scale farmers, included:

Of course I wished that I could attend every presentation, but I had to pick and choose. Among those I attended, one of the topics I really enjoyed learning about was:

Food Innovation Districts: Developing a Regional Food System

In this presentation, I learned that a ‘regional food system’ refers to place-specific clusters of agricultural producers of all kinds. While ‘local’ typically refers to food traveling less than 100 miles, ‘regional’ refers to food traveling less than 250 miles. A ‘food innovation district’ brings together economic, physical, and networking assets to create a regional food innovation ecosystem. This often includes markets, food business incubators, and storage, packaging, and distribution facilities. There are also opportunities for growers and producers to aggregate their products (such as through a food hub), share information, and partner on events and marketing/promotion.

The speaker, Lynn Caldwell, described her work to develop a Food Innovation District in Charlotte, North Carolina. She also gave two other examples of Food Innovation Districts: West Louisville FoodPort (unfortunately this project was discontinued in August 2016) and Detroit Kitchen Connect. A leader in this area, Michigan State University’s Center for Regional Food Systems offers resources about developing Food Innovation Districts, which you can use in your own community. One of these resources is their ‘Food Innovation District: An Economic Gardening Tool’ guide. While the focus seems to be on developing Food Innovation Districts in urban environments, I think there’s certainly opportunity and benefits that would result from engaging farmers and food producers from rural areas in these exciting projects.

I’ll talk about another one of my favorite presentations ‘Unusual Vegetables from Mountains to Sea’ in another post coming up soon!

Janie Hynson is an aspiring homesteader in North Carolina. She recently moved back to her hometown after living in Boston for six years and then traveling across the U.S. working on organic farms. Janie works in public health and sustainable agriculture and is interested in how health can be improved through homesteading.

Leave a Comment

Join me online