August 26, 2016
On August 7, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) gathered in Orono, Maine for our annual summer meeting. Advocates and farmers representing over 100 NSAC member organizations convened to evaluate our policy priorities, learn more about New England’s agricultural economy, strengthen the structure and voice of our coalition, and plan for the 2018 Farm Bill.
The meeting was hosted by two NSAC member organizations located in Maine: Maine Farmland Trust and Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, and was sponsored by Allagash Brewing Company, Annie’s Homegrown, Clif Bar, Organic Valley, Rising Tide Brewing Company, Shine Craft Vessel Co., and Tide Mill Creamery.
Learning About Local Production
NSAC hosted a panel discussion of Maine producers and processors, organized and moderated by the office of Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1). Panelists spoke about the nature of processing and distributing local food in Maine and beyond, including grains, meat, and dairy products. Thank you to Aaron Bell from Tide Mill Organic Farm, Marada Cook from Crown O’ Maine Organic Coop & Northern Girl, Amber Lambke from Maine Grains and Somerset Grist Mill, Abby Sadauckas from Apple Creek Farm, Ben Slayton from Farmers’ Gate Market, and Lisa Webster from North Star Sheep Farm for a great discussion!
Following the panel, Congresswoman Pingree was honored by NSAC with our “Champion of Sustainability” award, in recognition of her longstanding commitment to farmers and sustainable agriculture. Thank you for all your hard work Congresswoman!
We were also fortunate to be able to meet local farmers and producers at the Orono Farmers’ Market. The Orono market has offered locals a wide variety of fresh and value-added products for nearly 25 years, and is one of the state’s larger farmers’ markets. The University of Maine hosts the market on campus throughout the summer.
Fostering Connections with Undergraduate Institutions
NSAC was pleased to welcome representatives from Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS): Dr. Quentin Tyler of the University of Kentucky and Karl Binns from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Dr. Tyler and Mr. Binns serve as MANRRS Chapter Advisors at their respective universities, where they empower students to pursue careers in agriculture, offer professional development opportunities, and work for the inclusion, achievement, and advancement of all people in the agricultural sciences. NSAC and MANRRS hope to form partnerships that will help recent college graduates access career opportunities in sustainable agriculture and policy advocacy.
Road Map to the Next Farm Bill
While Congress is on a month-long recess, NSAC kicked off our planning process for the 2018 Farm Bill. Members took full advantage of the rare opportunity to convene in person, and hunkered down in their committees to develop marker bills supporting beginning farmers, ensuring access to local food, improving public plant breeding research, and expanding on-farm conservation opportunities. NSAC and our member organizations look forward to working with our partners in Congress to advance these sustainable farming and food priorities.
On-Farm Student Research
NSAC members also got to enjoy the beauty and bounty of Maine farmland when we toured the University of Maine’s sustainable agriculture research site, Rogers Farm, in Old Town. Graduate students from the College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture showcased their innovative research in cover cropping, weed management, and growing small grains. Extension professor John Jemison led the tour of Rogers Farm, which also provides land for the Black Bear Food Guild, the university’s student-run community-supported agriculture program.
With the 2018 Farm Bill around the corner, a new Administration about to be decided, and many new Congress Members incoming this fall, NSAC looks forward to a busy year working with our members to build a stronger, more sustainable food and farm system!
Categories: General Interest