2018 Pioneer Valley Grows Forum

We are just one week out from the 2018 PVGrows Forum and we are nearing capacity! Register today to secure yourself a seat on April 7th as we dig deep on the urgent and timely topics facing the Pioneer Valley food system. Join us to broaden and deepen your relationships with others in the field while identifying paths to take collaborative action for a more just, equitable food system!
Catered lunch, Gateway City Arts – Spanish interpretation services available
Keynote from Migrant Justice 
Migrant Justice organizes immigrant farmworkers and allies in the state of Vermont for human rights and economic justice. Founded in 2009 after the death of a young dairy worker, the organization brings the farmworker community together with community assemblies to create a vision and roadmap for advancing human rights through collective action. In the decade since its founding, Migrant Justice has received national accolades for its cutting edge grassroots organizing, winning access to driver’s licenses for immigrant workers and the country’s strongest statewide policy preventing police collaboration with deportation agencies. In 2017, Migrant Justice signed a contract with Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to implement the organization’s worker-driven social responsibility program “Milk with Dignity” in the company’s supply chain. This program is now transforming conditions and securing human rights on farms across the state.
Sessions for the Day
Land Access in the Pioneer Valley

Both rural and urban agriculture face challenges related to land access in the Pioneer Valley and beyond. Our region’s long history of enslavement, racial discrimination, and anti-immigrant biases has forged the patterns of land and wealth distribution that exist today. Join us to explore this history, the challenges that exist in the field of land access today, and opportunities for taking action moving forward.
 
Immigration and the Food System
Now is a time of heightened stress and fear for foreign-born residents of the Pioneer Valley and beyond. Foreign-born residents play a substantial role in the food system of our region and now, more than ever, it is essential to support the food system workers of the Pioneer Valley. Join us as we examine the current lay of the land for immigrants working in the food system and explore approaches to taking action moving forward.

Building Political Muscle for Food Resilience

What’s the Farm Bill? Why does it matter? Build your toolbox, and take away actions your communities can do at the State and Federal levels to preserve the programs that ensure healthy food is accessible to all.

The Trump Administration’s 2019 Budget proposed cutting SNAP’s budget by over $200 billion in the coming decade while radically restructuring the entire program. This session will feature updates on the current status of this and other essential programs like Farm to School and FINI, the federal grant program that funded HIP, while offering an opportunity for developing strategies across our communities for protecting current funding levels and new ways of moving forward.

PVGrows Forums bring together food system stakeholders and participants to spend a day deeply exploring the Pioneer Valley food system. Our events are open to all. The 2018 PVGrows Forum is made possible by a volunteer planning committee, our sponsors, and CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture.)

For more information, visit the 2018 PVGrows Forum event page or contact Noah Baustin, the 2018 PVGrows Forum Coordinator.

Thanks to the sponsors of the 2018 PVGrows Forum

 

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Home is where the hemp is…

New York Times 

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Russians sorting raw hemp fibers in the Kursk region in the 1960s. Hemp has been used as building material for millennia in Europe and elsewhere, but it’s only just starting to get wider recognition as a green construction option.

The Romans have been using it since the days of Julius Caesar, but not to get high. Both Washington and Jefferson grew it.

Now that several states have legalized the use of marijuana for some recreational and medical purposes, one of the biggest untapped markets for the cannabis plant itself — at least one variety — could be as a building tool.

The most sustainable building material isn’t concrete or steel — it’s fast-growing hemp. Hemp structures date to Roman times. A hemp mortar bridge was constructed back in the 6th century, when France was still Gaul.

Now a wave of builders and botanists are working to renew this market. Mixing hemp’s woody fibers with lime produces a natural, light concrete that retains thermal mass and is highly insulating. No pests, no mold, good acoustics, low humidity, no pesticide. It

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Soil Power! The Dirty Way to a Green Planet

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The last great hope of avoiding catastrophic climate change may lie in a substance so commonplace that we typically ignore it or else walk all over it: the soil beneath our feet.

The earth possesses five major pools of carbon. Of those pools, the atmosphere is already overloaded with the stuff; the oceans are turning acidic as they become saturated with it; the forests are diminishing; and underground fossil fuel reserves are being emptied. That leaves soil as the most likely repository for immense quantities of carbon.

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On our way to a “nation of farmers” in Amherst, MA

Michelle Chandler and one of her backyard meat rabbits

Michelle Chandler made a decision shortly after September 11, 2001 – she was going to be less dependent on fossil fuels and begin to live a more sustainable lifestyle.  The result is 100 rabbits, dozens of laying hens and a couple of milk goats in her suburban yard in South Amherst, MA.  Chandler quotes John 21:17, when Peter was asked by Jesus, “Do you love me?” Upon answering, “Yes,” Peter is instructed to “feed my sheep.”

Chandler’s “sheep” are her four children, ages 8 to 13, as well as neighbors and friends who enjoy the results of her bounty produced at Blessed Acre Farm and Rabbitry, where she raises several rare and heritage rabbit breeds – Cinnamons, Thriantas, Californians, Cremes d’Argent, Palominos, and American Blues.

According to an article in her local newspaper, those interested in raising rabbits should start with three, which would cost about $60 to get started. “For someone who wants rabbit on the table once a week for a family of four, you could realistically get by with one buck and two does,” she said. Then there’s the cost of building or buying hutches, at around $50 to $75 apiece, and providing the feed. A 50-pound bag costs $14.

Although her own property was far enough from the center of town to be exempt, Chandler was instrumental in helping to pass a new bylaw that allows up to 12 chickens or rabbits by right anywhere in Amherst.

“I feel strongly that Amherst will be better served by being able to feed itself,” said Chandler. “People are always going to be hungry, and if people have another food source, that’s a good thing.”

 One of Michelle Chandler’s close friends, Sharon Astyk, has written a book called “A Nation of Farmers” in which she claims raising your own food in the backyard must become a more common feature of the American landscape if we are to adjust to Peak Oil.  Chandler’s backyard has become a living example of this trend.

 

A growing number of young Americans are leaving desk jobs to farm

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Liz Whitehurst dabbled in several careers before she ended up here, crating fistfuls of fresh-cut arugula in the early-November chill.

The hours were better at her nonprofit jobs. So were the benefits. But two years ago, the 32-year-old Whitehurst – who graduated from a liberal arts college and grew up in the Chicago suburbs – abandoned Washington, D.C., for this three-acre farm in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.

FARMERSShe joined a growing movement of highly educated, ex-urban, first-time farmers who are capitalizing on booming consumer demand for local and sustainable foods and, experts say, could have a broad impact on the food system.

For only the second time in the last century, the number of farmers under 35 years old is increasing, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest Census of Agriculture.

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UMass Professor Reports on Pesticides

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heAccording to Dr. Lili He, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, “our food system is indeed very vulnerable. It can be contaminated intentionally and unintentionally by many agents. Generally speaking, there are three types of contaminants in food system, 1) microbes, including bacteria, virus, fungi, parasites, and their toxins, 2) chemicals, such as pesticides, antibiotics, adulterants, allergens, and 3) engineered nanomaterials (ENMs).”

The following is a recent article in the New York Times exploring pesticides in food

Q. Do pesticides get into the flesh of conventional fruits and vegetables like cantaloupe, apples and cucumbers?

A. Pesticides sprayed on fruits and vegetables accumulate on the outer peel or skin, but the skin does not form an impermeable barrier, and some pesticides are actually designed to be absorbed into the tissue of the fruit or vegetable to protect it from pests that penetrate the skin to suck out the liquid inside.

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Jason Silverman on his farming experience

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Jason is a graduate of the Sustainable Food and Farming Program at UMass Amherst

CONWAY — Aging farmers own a collective $1.8 billion in farming infrastructure and land throughout Massachusetts, according to Land For Good, a nonprofit promoting New England agriculture.

That combined with rising property values — which have increased steadily since 2006 based on United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistics — pose problems for first-generation farmers who don’t already own land or have access to investment capital. Nationally, farm real estate averaged $3,020 per acre in 2015, up about $1,000 over 2006.

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