by Guest Blogger, Dr. Jill Tieman, RealFoodForager.com
The State University of Old Westbury was host to the unprecedented Small Farm Summit on Long Island on April 15, 2011. The conference was a project of the Long Island Small Farm Initiative, and it marks the beginning of an on-going effort to cultivate active community support for sustainable local agriculture. It was a full day featuring 20 different workshops sponsored by Long Island agencies such as Slow Food Huntington, Sustainable Long Island and the Long Island Chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY). These groups, along with others, have united to launch a grassroots campaign to raise awareness of local food on Long Island.
They are working to grow the economy by developing our native food supply. The nearly 600 people who attended were organic and conventional vegetable farmers, chicken farmers, gardeners, teachers, students, and other people who were interested in the issues facing our Long Island community in regard to the food supply and its impact across socioeconomic lines.
One of the most exciting aspects of the program was that the keynote speaker was our much loved Joel Salatin — self-described “environmentalist capitalist lunatic farmer”, or as the New York Times calls him, “the high priest of the pasture.” He is the author of a number of books including Holy Cows and Hog Heaven, Everything I want To Do Is Illegal, etc. He is featured in Michael Pollen’s books and recently in the film, Food, Inc. However, most importantly, he has become a a mentor to other farmers who strive to bring their farms “beyond organic.”
The keynote was hilarious, as you would expect if you have ever heard Joel Salatin speak. He debunked ten myths about farms, ranging from “farming hurts ecology” to “who cares about earthworms” to “farming is dirty” to “local food is expensive and elitist.” Joel Salatin demystified these urban perceptions about farming with style and humor.
In a later session Salatin presented a PowerPoint about his methods of polyculture sustainable farming. He has it all worked out so that everything gets recycled back into the soil and all the animals are able to express their “chickenness” or “pigness”. For example the cows are on pasture and the chickens follow the cows and pick through the cow pies, allowing the manure to degrade into the soil. The cows need to stand on straw for healthy hooves, so the stalls are padded with a lot of straw peppered with corn kernels. When the straw starts to smell, the pigs are taken into the stalls to burrow for the corn and thus they “aerate” the straw and this alleviates the smell. He calls them “pigaerators!” Everything gets recycled with no additional chemicals or money spent. This farm does not need a subsidy. It’s truly a self sustaining farm. Quite the opposite of commercial factory farms.
Other workshops covered such topics as school gardens, community gardens, farming on Long Island (a historical perspective), land availability and land use policy, funding sources for farmers, food and farm policy, the basics of organic gardening, community supported fisheries (CSFs), sustainable economic development, community support programs and nutrient-dense crop management among others. There were 72 expert panelists many of whom donated their services to help participants learn from their valuable insights and experiences.
One such session was School Gardens, Community Gardens, Urban Gardens and Farm-Based Education. This was a panel made up of some of the movers and shakers in bringing real food to real people. For example, there was Christina Grace from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. This group sponsors a community garden at John Bowne High School, a Farmers Market and Community Farm in East New York, as well as other urban gardens and markets. Also speaking was Bhavani Jaroff from iEat Green, which is changing the face of school lunches for the better. Frances Cerra Whittelsey from Long Island Community Agriculture Network presented her mission, to give low-income people access to land and to teach them how to grow food. Due in part to her efforts, there is now a community garden in Huntington Station. All these people head up programs that involve communities, children and many sponsor urban gardens in the most unlikely places. These gardens thrive and provide people in their communities with training, skills and food that goes way beyond “let’s plant a seed.” They should be applauded for their efforts.
There was an area for vendors and the Weston Price Foundation was well represented by three chapter leaders from Long Island; Caroline Barringer, Juliana Mazzeo and Tara Gidaly, who generously donated their time for the entire day. As you might imagine, the table was hopping and many people received vital information. It was exhilarating to see how many people were involved in some aspect of support for a local agrarian economy, food self sufficiency and improving the farm to consumer relationship on Long island.
Dr. Jill Tieman is a Clinical Nutritionist/Chiropractor in Suffolk County, New York, with a specialty in SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet) and GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) as well as Chapter Leader of the Great South Bay Chapter of the Weston Price Foundation. She is passionate about teaching people to heal themselves through real, nutrient dense and traditional foods.
At this past WAPF conference she learned about blogging and realized that this was a great way to use technology to communicate this critical information to consumers.
This post is part of the Real Food Wednesday blog carnival. See more about sustainable small farm eats on Kelly the Kitchen Kop blog.
For sustainable sources of grassfed meats, see our Resources page.