The Small Farm Central crew attended PASA's (Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture) 21st Annual Farming for the Future Conference last week to check in with friends and colleagues and find out what's new with small farmers in our immediate area. While not exhibiting in a booth this year, we did host a mixer for new and beginning farmers and Simon ran two interactive workshops on web marketing for farmers.
Simon & young Eliot take a break and get some food at PASA.
At the Opening Keynote address, we heard of many exciting trends that we wished to share with you. First, there were over 2200 people in attendance at the conference, the largest amount ever. Of those, more than half of them were farmers and almost a third of that number were first-time attendees. Second, there was a 30% increase in farm shares last year. Third, the biggest increase in Dept. of Agriculture loans last year were beginning farmer loans. Add these trends together and it seems like the push toward sustainable, small, local farming is going strong.
Drew and Joan Norman of One Straw Farm, one of our initial Member Assembler customers, were applauded by the entire assembly for their courageous decision to voluntarily surrender their organic certification to farm more environmentally responsibly despite a disagreement with the National Organic Program's classification system. Read more about it here. We add our thanks to the Normans for continuing to take the lead in the organic movement.
In addition to seeing the Normans, we also caught up with John and Eris Norman (no relation) from Norman's Farm Market, Karlin and Lydia from Penn's Corner Farm Alliance, Ben from Three Springs Fruit Farm, and many other friends. In addition to all the practical information, PASA's conference is a great community-building event that reminds farmers that even though the seasons can be tough, they're not in it alone and that people care about the work you do.