(Photos are of a large-scale grain harvest (courtesy USDA ARS Image Gallery) and harvesting wheat with a cradle.)
I am excited to be attending the Farming for the Future Conference next week, an annual event organized by the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA). PASA does everything from addressing farm and food policy issues to offering farm-based educational workshops.
The theme of this year's conference is "Claiming our Food - System Future" and the featured keynote speaker is Wes Jackson, founder of The Land Institute in Kansas. Mr. Jackson's work centers on solving the problem he calls "the 10,000-year-old problem of agriculture." His view of industrial agriculture is one that seriously degrades land through unnatural systems, filling it with salts and chemicals as well as simply encouraging it to blow and wash away through erosion. The Land Institute is experimenting with what they call Natural Systems Agriculture. Much modern agriculture is based on annual crops (grains, soy) that last a year and then get removed and the land tilled under. The Land Institute hopes to grow perennial grains, based on the Kansas prairie, to supplement the annual monoculture food-system. From their website... "Our purpose is to develop an agricultural system with the ecological stability of the prairie and a grain yield comparable to that from annual crops." I agree, large scale farming wreaks havoc, and I must admit, perennial grains sound dreamy.
As far as the conference workshops go, I'm really excited about some offerings in Beekeeping, The Farm Bill, Late-Blight Management (it is really affecting tomatoes these days), Forage & Cover Crops (woo hoo!), and other general organic/food-production stuffs. There should be a lot of great conversations going on, and I'm looking forward to meeting some pretty awesome folks.