February is here, which means the annual Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) conference is approaching! OEFFA expects a sellout, and only Sunday and the pre-conference workshops have space left. Sowing the Seeds of our Food Sovereignty marks the 33rd installment of this important statewide gathering (it also features a fantastic poster by Kevin Morgan – possibly the best EVER designed for an agriculture conference!). On February 18th, approximately 1,000 members of Ohio’s sustainable agriculture community – including farmers, artisans, grocers, chefs, policy leaders, gardeners, and many others – will convene in Granville for a robust weekend of dialogue, networking, professional development, and good times with colleagues!
The keynotes are fantastic, as usual. Slow Money Alliance Chairman, Woody Tasch, will discuss Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Matter, while leading environmental attorney and executive director of the Center for Food Safety, Andrew Kimbrell, will share his thoughts on The Future of Food. Green B.E.A.N. Delivery is really excited to see everyone, talk shop, and engage the issues facing Ohio’s sustainable food movement!
For those unfamiliar with OEFFA, they are a coalition of passionate people who “share a desire to build a healthy food system that brings prosperity to family farmers, helps preserve farmland, offers food security for all Ohioans, and creates economic opportunities for our rural communities.” A few farmers founded the organization in 1979 while rediscovering a way of growing food that the United States had largely lost in the transition to an industrial agriculture paradigm. Those were the days when mentioning the word “Organic” elicited laughter. Today, OEFFA’s membership is 3,000 strong and Green B.E.A.N. Delivery is a proud member business!
OEFFA is extremely important to sustainable agriculture in Ohio. They are the state’s largest and oldest Organic certifier. In fact, their Organic Certification program predates the USDA’s, making them one of the longest operating certifiers in the country. They certify over 700 farms and processing facilities throughout the Midwest and approximately 550 in Ohio, which encompasses between 70 to 80 percent of organic operations in the state. So, if you frequent a Buckeye State farmers market, there’s a good chance your favorite organic grower is certified by OEFFA!
Organic Certification is just one facet of OEFFA’s work. They engage in multiple programs and initiatives that build their grassroots networks and empower farmers. In addition to their certification program, they coordinate the annual conference; host a series of public workshops, free farm tours and webinars; maintain the Good Earth Guide, which lists over 300 farms and food businesses; support and connect the state’s agriculture community through educational resources, an apprenticeship program and a comprehensive listserv; and advocate for sustainable farm friendly policies at the state and federal level (Advocacy is particularly important in 2012 with the Farm Bill up for reauthorization). Yeah, they’re pretty busy folks, especially these days with the conference looming.
Speaking of the conference… it features many great workshops on a variety of topics, a screening and discussion of The Greenhorns, Contra Dance with the Back Porch Swing Band, and big exhibit hall packed with businesses, nonprofits and government agencies. And, if you can’t make it this year (or – since you are only one person – you can’t make it to everything) OEFFA sells recordings of the whole thing on cd or mp3. Registration remains available for the pre-conference workshops with Woody Tasch and Jeff Moyer of the Rodale Institute until Friday, February10th or until sold out. But those spots, as well as remaining Sunday spots, are going quickly and they do not accept walk-in registrations; so if you are interested, do not delay, register ASAP! ! If you want to learn more about Slow Money, the winter Edible Columbus contains a great interview with Mr. Tasch. Check out the conference website for more information on the weekend’s activities!
If you are as passionate about sustainable food as we are, we really encourage you to learn more about OEFFA. They do great work. Important work. And we thank them.