Posted by Christa Glennie Seychew:
This past Saturday I was fortunate enough to attend the NOFA-NY conference held over the course of the weekend in Rochester’s Riverside Convention Center. The conference is in its 27th year, and its scope was pretty impressive.
When I arrived the conference center was buzzing, the throng of attendees were excited to be there despite the early morning hour and bitter winter wind. Made up of farmers, academics, students, entrepreneurs and agricultural industry professionals, the crowd was a great mix of people from all over New York State who care about (or are simply interested in) organics.
I arrived at almost 8 a.m. and managed to quickly find a seat in the class I was most eager to attend—Communicating about Local Food Systems. This class was led by Maggie Gosselin, who is co-owner of Local Foods Wheel, and Liz Carollo, who masterfully handles the task of coordinating all of the publicity and promotion for NY’s 46 Greenmarkets.
Communicating really focused on helping small-scale farms and producers understand the importance of utilizing the web and other promotional and marketing tools to drive business. Many of the attendees were farmers that were completely unfamiliar with all things internet, while others were quite savvy. Maggie did a good job of providing people with a quick overview of the many possibilities that the internet has to offer and sited solid resources for people looking to learn more. I can think of a good number of Western New York farms that would have benefited from this portion of the class in particular. It seems our whole world—particularly consumerism—is now driven by the web.
During the last portion of the class, Liz shared some of the very innovative ways in which she and the Greenmarket team have really built a community—and a buzz—around their markets. A few of them were inspiring, while others were both inspiring and completely entertaining.
Later in the afternoon, I took an intriguing class led by Dr. Christian Peters of Cornell University. He has just finished a study examining whether or not enough food can be grown in New York State to fulfill New York State’s own needs. Quite honestly, this class was far too complex for me to successfully summarize here, but suffice it to say that if Buffalo were to utilize all of the agricultural property that exists within its own foodshed, we could absolutely, positively fulfill all of our own nutritional needs. I’m not suggesting we do that, and either is Dr. Peters, but as the need for local food systems becomes more and more obvious, questions like these must be asked and answered. The paper supporting this study is pending publication, but you can read more about another of Dr. Peters’ well-known studies here.
Other classes offered on Saturday reflected the diversity of the conference-goers. Wheat Weaving, Basic Tractor Maintenance, Sheep Husbandry 101, Bringing Farm Fresh Food to Low-Income Communities, On-Farm Organic Seed Production and Pastured Rabbit is the New Chicken were just a few.
Besides a rather dismal lunch at a local Chinese/Thai/Japanese/Vietnamese joint, I spent the rest of my day in the Tradeshow, where vendors from all over the Northeast came to show off their wares to conference attendees. Edible had a booth, and I was pleased to spend my time meeting Edible readers and hanging out with fellow EB writer, Kathleen Kellogg, and Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, a writer from Edible Finger Lakes and a well-recognized regional blogger.
I hope that the conference is within driving distance next year. I’d love to spend the day again, and next time, I’ll be sure sign up early so that I can skip the bad Asian food and instead eat the all-local, all-organic lunch served to those wise enough to register ahead of time (I hear it was divine).