Organic Broadcaster


 

Community addresses big issues at country’s largest organic farming event

By Audrey Alwell

Social and economic justice, organic integrity, and the future of the organic label took center stage at the 31st Annual MOSES Organic Farming Conference in La Crosse, Wis., at the end of February. Farmers, ag professionals, service providers, researchers, and students—2,593 in all—gathered to discuss important issues and build community to further the organic, sustainable, and regenerative farming movements.

“We always come out of the MOSES Conference inspired and energized, and this year was no different,” said Marisa Maggio of Starry Nights Farm in Burlington, Wisconsin. “We are proud and excited to be part of this movement towards better land, improving soil, capturing carbon, better food, and rebuilding rural America.”

The keynote presentations focused on rebuilding rural America from a foundation of social and economic justice. Leah Penniman of Soul Fire Farm examined the history of African-Americans in farming and talked about the work she and others are doing to reconnect Black, Brown, and Indigenous people to the land. John Ikerd, Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Economics, explained why we’re trapped in an industrial system of agriculture and why we need “public outrage” to transform farm policy to support family farms and rural communities. You can watch these powerful presentations on the MOSES YouTube channel.

Organic integrity in the supply chain was the focus of a meeting with conference participants and David Glasgow, the Associate Deputy Administrator of the National Organic Program (NOP). Glasgow said the conversation was “robust and engaging” with more than 80 farmers and organic certifiers participating. The NOP has stepped up compliance and enforcement efforts and has been hiring additional Accreditation Auditors and Investigative Specialists.

A workshop on finding common ground for the future of the organic label featured representatives of the Real Organic Project, the Organic Trade Association, the National Organic Coalition, and Regenerative Organic Certification. Lauren Langworthy, Executive Director of MOSES, moderated the conversation.

The audio recording of that workshop is available at the MOSES online store—along with the rest of the conference workshops. The MP3 downloads are $5 each. The complete set of workshop recordings on a USB drive is $75. Many presenters also shared their PowerPoints, making the audio recordings even more informative. The PowerPoints are posted online at mosesorganic.org/conference/workshops.

The MOSES Board of Directors recognized Jane Hawley Stevens and David Stevens as the Organic Farmers of the Year. Jane and David own Four Elements Organic Herbals, a Wisconsin farm and business that has been a vendor in the conference exhibit hall for 30 years. The farm has been certified organic since 1989. You can read more about the Farmers of the Year in the January issue of the Organic Broadcaster or online at mosesorganic.org/projects/organic-farmer-of-the-year. Their presentation at the conference is posted on the MOSES YouTube channel.

The Stevens family from Four Elements Organic Herbals were named the Organic Farmers of the Year. Photo by Laurie Schneider.

The board also presented a new award to honor people who are breaking down barriers and empowering others to farm in ways that are environmentally responsible, socially just, and economically viable. Steve Acheson, Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin, and Loretta Livingston and Joy Schelble received 2020 Changemaker awards. Their work is featured in this issue. Their presentations from the conference also are on the MOSES YouTube channel.

The Organic Research Forum at the MOSES Conference included a juried poster session. Naomy Candelaria from the University of Minnesota took first place with her research, “New Summer Cover Crop Options for Organic Vegetable Farmers: Exploring Ecosystem Service Trade-Offs.” Alyssa Tarrant, Michigan State University, took second place, and Chris Massman from the University of Wisconsin-Madison took third place.

More than 100 farmers received scholarships to attend the conference. The Chris Blanchard Memorial Scholarship covered admission for eight farmers, the Dave Engel Memorial Fund provided scholarships to two farmers, and the general MOSES Scholarship Fund covered the rest. To donate to a conference scholarship fund, go to mosesorganic.org/conference/scholarships/#support.

A total of 80 businesses and organizations sponsored this year’s conference, providing the financial support so necessary to an event of this size and scope.

“I am thankful for the truly special sponsor and exhibitor support this conference receives,” said Tom Manley, MOSES Partnership Director. “Many of these businesses and organizations have been long-standing sponsors and are the backbone of a strong organic community. The products and services they provide keep us all farming. I hope you’ll join me in choosing their products and services so the cycle can continue.” Links to sponsors are online at mosesorganic.org/conference/sponsors.

The MOSES Organic Farming Conference will return to La Crosse Feb. 25-27, 2021. If you have suggestions for workshops or presenters, submit those online at mosesorganic.org/conference.

Audrey Alwell is the MOSES Communications Director.

 

From the March| April 2020 Issue

 

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