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Sustainable Farming in the South: NSAC Members Gather in Georgia

January 30, 2015

Earlier this week, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) held its bi-annual meeting on Jekyll Island in Southeastern Georgia.

Representatives of NSAC’s member organizations convened to discuss and set NSAC priorities for 2015, plan grassroots actions for the year, and engage on sustainable agriculture issues with other advocates from around the country.

Georgia Organics, a non-profit organization and NSAC member based in Atlanta, hosted this year’s winter meeting.

Setting NSAC’s Priorities for 2015

During each winter meeting, representatives from NSAC’s member organizations discuss and set the coalition’s priorities for the coming year. This year, NSAC’s federal policy priorities include:

  • Bolstering beginning and socially disadvantaged farmer programs;
  • Laying the groundwork for crop insurance reform;
  • Growing and defending voluntary conservation programs; and
  • Expanding federal support for farm-to-school activities.

NSAC’s Policy Council had previously approved actions to strengthen the connections between kids and local farms through support for the Farm to School Grant Program during the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act. The Act must be reauthorized by September of this year.

NSAC’s members also set annual funding priorities for the upcoming Fiscal Year 2016 Appropriations process including the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, protecting mandatory conservation programs, and food safety outreach and training programs for farmers. NSAC’s continued opposition to policy riders that are detrimental to a sustainable farming and food system was also affirmed.

Visiting Sustainable Farms in Southeast Georgia and Learning About Farm Labor in Florida

Checking out the fantastic compost with Matthew Raiford at Gilliard Farms.

Checking out the fantastic compost with Matthew Raiford at Gilliard Farms.

NSAC’s members had the opportunity during the meeting to visit two sustainable farms in Georgia, and learn about the local agricultural community in Southeastern coastal Georgia.

The first farm members visited was Gilliard Farms, a family-owned organic vegetable farm run by sibling farmers Althea Raiford and Matthew Raiford, who are both beginning farmers and military veterans. Gilliard Farms was first established in 1874 by Althea and Matthew’s great great great grandfather, and they are the sixth generation to farm this land. The farm has never used chemicals to grow any crops and is a member of Georgia Organics, Coastal Organic Growers, Georgia Grown, and the Southeastern African-American Farmers Organic Network (SAAFON).

Young lettuce greens at Canewater Farm

Young lettuce greens at Canewater Farm.

The second farm NSAC members toured was Canewater Farms, which is owned and operated by Rafe and Ansley Rivers – two beginning farmers who have recently returned to their native Georgia to start their farming careers. The farm is located in Darien, Georgia and is situated on the edge of pristine marsh amongst towering live oaks, slash pines, and cedars. The young farming couple currently cultivates 20 acres of farmland, including cover crops and organic vegetables, and is also a member of Georgia Organics.

NSAC members also had the opportunity to attend a screening of the documentary film Food Chain$. The movie documents the fight of migrant workers in the commercial tomato production industry in and around Immokalee, Florida as they work to get fast food, food service, and grocery stores to agree to pay 1 cent more per pound for tomatoes and to enforce better work rules on farms they purchase from. Food Chain$ was released in November of 2014. A discussion with two members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), which produced the film, followed the screening. To learn more about the film, visit CIW’s website.

Preparing for the new Congress

While spending most of their time setting NSAC’s priorities for the year, NSAC members also prepared to push forward with NSAC’s priorities during the new 114th Congress. NSAC and its member organizations are excited about the optimism that accompanies a new congress and look forward to working with new members of Congress to advance sustainable farming and food.

Categories: Beginning and Minority Farmers, Conservation, Energy & Environment, General Interest, Organic

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