Monday, March 1, 2010

Slow Food and Sustainable Farming

Two weekends ago, Hubby and I attended a couple of conferences for groups that we are interested in: The Sustainable Farming Association of MN and Slow Food MN.

The first, Sustainable Farming Association of MN, had their annual conference on the St. Olaf campus in Northfield, MN. There were a few stands for vendors ranging from organic seed purveyors to other sustainable organizations. There were various seminars throughout the day, including a film made by a faculty member and student at Gustavus Adolphus College (my alma mater).

It was interesting, but both Hubby and I felt underwhelmed by it. First, the organizers touted a "farmers market" that would be onsite. I believe the we came across one stand that had some homemade jams and jellies. Other than that - nothing. Kind of sad, especially considering the number of local producers nearby. Second, there was a lot of "preaching to the choir" going on. I mean, I think most of those in attendance already buys into to concepts. A lot of people were going off with either "We need to support sustainable farmers." and "Peak oil, climate change, and economic instablility are all linked to the need for sustainable farming." But there wasn't a lot of discussion about what we could do on a personal, local, and political/national level. Third, I was disappointed that there seemed to be a lack of minority farmers and urban farmers - both of which are growing areas of farming in this state.

I do have to say that I was impressed by all that St. Olaf is doing in this area - their student farm and its relationship with the cafeteria, the wind turbines, their composting facility. The food was really nice - much better than when I went to college (but Gustavus is making strides there, now).

The other event was the Slow Food MN annual meeting. It was held at the McNally School of Music in St. Paul. It was a soup and bread potluck. We brought two loaves of No Knead Bread and a jar of our homemade strawberry rhubarb jam. The food was quite tasty and the group was very welcoming. The business meeting was a bit chaotic (some people were unused to parlimentary procedure), but they did get through it. I'm excited about the events they have planned - including a Hmong farm and food event, a chocolate event, and repeat of the foraged food event we attended last year.

There is quite a bit of overlap with these two groups (Slow Food and Sustainable Farming Association). It makes sense, though. A lot of the farmers are the same in both groups and the food-lovers like Hubby and me are interested in the same groups. All this had Hubby and I going "Why aren't these groups more integrated and working with each other more?" Thus, I will get more into that when I talk about Transition Towns in a future post.

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