Michigan Family Farms Conference Keynotes Celebrate International Year of Soils in 2015
posted on February 17, 2015 12:03pm
In celebration of the International Year of Soils, nearly 450 people gathered for the 12th annual Michigan Family Farms Conference on January 17, 2015, themed “Sustain our Future – Healthy Soils, Healthy Communities.”
This year’s conference boasted eight tracks – including a youth track – featuring 18 educational sessions and more than 50 total speakers from across the realm of agriculture and food systems. Topics ranged from production and marketing to food safety and including cover crops, pollinators, hoophouse production, pest management and more, as well as sessions targeted toward beginning, veteran and women farmers.
For the first time since the conference moved to a one-day format, this year’s conference featured two keynote addresses to truly delve into the value of soil heath to agriculture and to our communities.
Jack Lee and Jim Marshall representing the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service new Soil Health Team brought their vast knowledge and experience working with soils all across Michigan and the U.S. (Jack traveled all the way from Arizona) in the morning keynote, sharing their passion through a collage of presentation slides, videos and skits. This dynamic duo wowed conference attendees with “Vibrant Terra Firma: A Co-Creative Parable in 7 Acts”, helping attendees to grasp that soil, with its attendant plant community is the place where the terrestrial and atmospheric ecosystems meet – a place of relationship.
In the afternoon, LaDonna Sanders Redmond, founder and lead organizer of the Campaign For Food Justice NOW!, brought her passion for healthy foods and social justice in her keynote, “Every Community’s Right to Healthy Soil”. LaDonna’s community work in Chicago and Minneapolis has helped revitalize and energize communities and food systems from the ground up, transforming vacant lots into vibrant gardens where residents put their hands into the soil, grew their own food, and reconnected with the earth and their culture. She stressed that every community, everywhere, has a right to healthy soils and healthy foods, regardless of geography, race or socioeconomic status.
In between keynotes and educational sessions, attendees could visit the 33 exhibitors at the conference, which included resource organizations, food system advocates and local farms, filling the hallways of Marshall High School, a new venue for the conference this year. Farmers had the opportunity to visit these booths and talk one on one with others working in agriculture and natural resources, networking and making valuable resource connections for their farms.
Thank you to this year’s sponsors and planning partners, including Michigan Food & Farming Systems (MIFFS), the Farm Research Cooperative, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA), Michigan State University (MSU) College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, MSU Extension, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems, the Great Lakes Food Co-op, Detroit Eastern Market, GreenStone Farm Credit Services, Meijer, Mid-Michigan Consulting, LLC, Mike Pirrone Produce, the Resource Institute of Michigan, Organic Valley, Carlson-Arbogast Farm, the Cherry Marketing Institute, the Michigan Apple Committee, MassMutual, Michigan Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE), Nifty Hoops, the Potawatomi Resource Conservation and Development Council, and Spring House Press.
Read this article by the Battle Creek Enquirer about LaDonna’s presentation.