Sustainable Ag is full of PASAbilities!

Last week, Liz and I had the opportunity to travel to Lancaster to attend the 28th annual Pennsylvania Sustainable Agriculture Conference known as PASA.

Coordinators Lizzy and Liz with volunteers Dave and Donna.

Coordinators Lizzy and Liz with volunteers Dave and Donna.

We networked with and learned from over 1,900 farmers, food systems professionals, and sustainable agriculture advocates from all over the state. We were so happy to see so much South Central PA representation, including our growers, our market managers, our volunteers, fellow nonprofits like the LEAF Project, extension agents, and so many more.

We learned about legislation to advocate for like the Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption Act or the PRIME Act to help small livestock farmers, or the push to expand the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System allocation which provides monetary incentives for farmers to donate produce to food banks.

In other sessions, we practiced ways to ensure our content (like this blog post!) matched our short- and long-term goals, learned some composting tips and tricks for our backyard gardeners, and learned how many agricultural practices such as soil testing, crop rotation, raised beds, and so many more trace their roots back to the African diaspora.

Our view of downtown Lancaster and the market.

Our view of downtown Lancaster and the market.

Keynote speaker, Leah Lizarondo, shared about the work 412 Food Rescue is doing in an urban environment to reduce food waste and that nationwide, fresh produce makes up only 10-15% of food donations.

For me, the opportunity to spend a few days in Lancaster was even more exciting because my family’s roots are in the area. I grew up going to Lancaster Central Market, the oldest continuously running farmer’s market in the country, and driving past acres of farmland and roadside market stands on the way home.

It was not until recently that I began attributing those experiences to my passion for local food systems change. Previously, I had considered my time volunteering at the Painted Turtle Farm and being actively involved in growing food and building community as an isolated starting point for my interest in this work.

When I stopped to consider the individuals in our communities working hard to sustain roadside markets, farmers markets, and farm to school sourcing and education, this gave me hope for the next generation, who might grow up to be food systems practitioners or use their knowledge of sustainable agriculture to inform their work across various sectors. Between this realization and the energy and enthusiasm present at the conference despite an unprecedentedly challenging growing season, I left the conference eager to continue building relationships and impacting food systems change in our community.

A vegetable stand in Lancaster Central Market.

A vegetable stand in Lancaster Central Market.

I encourage you all to take a few moments to consider, how did the presence or absence of sustainable agriculture in your childhood impact your career, your hobbies, or another aspect of your life? If you feel like sharing, let us know in the comments or send us an email.

We return to work this week more engaged and full of questions and ideas for The Gleaning Project. Thank you PASA, for giving us the opportunity to experience the sense of community we feel in Adams and Franklin Counties on a state-wide level.

If this sounds like a conference you don’t want to miss, mark your calendar for the next year’s PASA conference which will be held in Lancaster from February 5-8th!

Lizzy

Abby McElhineyComment