The first weekend in February, the farm team and usually some staff from the produce and deli departments migrate to State College for the Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture’s annual “Farming for the Future” conference on the Penn State campus. PASA’s mission is “promoting profitable farms that produce healthy food for all people while respecting the natural environment.” This conference not only serves as an opportunity to gain knowledge and glean tips from agricultural experts, but it also is a time for farmers to get together, connect and socialize during the off-season. This year’s was the 26th annual conference, and the theme was “Hope, Farm, Heal.”
The keynote guest speakers were Janisse Ray and Gabe Brown. Janisse Ray is a writer, activist and naturalist. In her speech she wove themes of hope into a story about the planet’s current environmental catastrophes. Gabe Brown was a conventional rancher who turned to organics and now considers himself a soil-health pioneer. Reflecting on a couple of decades of holistic management, he was able to show results in increased production, profit and a higher quality of life.
The farm team attended workshops on a wide variety of topics, including: CSA management, soil health, allium pests, the Farm Bill, software for collecting farm data and biodynamic farming techniques. The conference is also full of shiny new tools and equipment, beautiful transplants that remind you of spring and farm-related books for winter reading. In contrast to the busy farming season, the PASA conference is a welcome opportunity to get away from the farm and get inspired!