Addressing corporate power in the food system and implementing regenerative agriculture will be the respective focal points of keynote addresses by rural sociologist Mary Hendrickson and farmer and soil scientist Francis Thicke at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 43rd annual conference, Rooted and Rising.
In her Saturday, February 12 online keynote address, “Corporate Power and Our Food System’s Future,” Hendrickson will discuss the dangers of a few large companies having such heavy influence over the U.S. food system, and how any farmer can enact change.
“The distribution of power in the food system, embodied in the power to make decisions about what food is produced, how, where and by whom, as well as who gets to eat and what they get to eat, becomes a focus of concern when that decision-making power is concentrated in the hands of managers and boards of directors of transnational agri-food companies,” Hendrickson said in a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing. “To meet shareholder expectations, these firms look to their bottom line, not their impact on farmers, communities, consumers, or the natural world.”
As an associate professor at the University of Missouri, Hendrickson specializes in community food systems, sustainable agriculture, rural development, competition and antitrust, and the sociology of agriculture. Previously, she served as director of the Food Circles Networking Project and as associate director of the Community Food Systems and Sustainable Agriculture Program for University of Missouri Extension, where she worked with community groups to transform the food system.
Hendrickson has also served as a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Rural Sociology, a Kellogg Food and Society fellow, and helped to create the Greater Kansas City Food Policy Coalition. She has received many awards and honors, including Fulbright Scholar to Iceland in 2020, Excellence in Instruction from the Rural Sociological Society in 2019, and Meritorious Service Award from the National Farmers Union in 2012.
In his Saturday, February 19 in-person keynote address, “Our Roots are Regenerative,” Thicke will consider the significance, meaning, and implementation of regenerative agriculture on farms.
Thicke is a dairy farmer, soil scientist, and leader in the organic community, farming organically since the 1970s. He owns and operates Radiance Dairy, a 736-acre grass-fed organic dairy farm in Fairfield, Iowa. With his wife Susan, they locally market value-added organic bottled milk, cheese, and yogurt, which they produce on their on-farm processing plant. This innovative farm also uses alternative energy systems and an integrated grazing system to manage livestock ecologically.
“[Radiance Dairy tries] to mimic the process that the bison in the prairies interacted in, the model that created our rich soils,” Thicke said to the Real Organic Project.
Thicke has served on the National Organic Standards board, the Iowa Food Policy Council, the Iowa Organic Standards board, and more. He previously worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Extension Service as the national program leader for soil science. Thicke has received many awards and honors, including the Sustainable Agriculture Achievement Award from the Practical Farmers of Iowa and Steward of the Land Award from the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club.
Thicke will also lead a workshop, “Grazing Management: From Soil Health to Community Health,” on Saturday, February 19.
OEFFA’s 43rd annual conference will also feature more than 50 educational workshops, a trade show, four full-day Food and Farm School classes, locally-sourced meals, and much more. The event will take place both online Saturday, February 12 and in-person Thursday, February 17-Saturday, February 19, 2022, at the Dayton Convention Center in Dayton, Ohio. A limited number of scholarships are available to Persons of Color, beginning farmers, and Ohio specialty crop growers.
For more information, or to register, visit oeffa.org/conference2022.