February 21, 2009

Small Farms Conference

Today I am attending the 9th Annual OSU Extension Service Small Farms Conference at Oregon State University (OSU). This is the third year I have attended. As always its been a wonderful experience. This year has the highest attendance, around 500 attendees. The beauty of this conference is it brings together farmers, market managers, restaurant owners, schools, state employees, federal employees, food bank folks....basically the whole range of folks involved in dealing with were our food comes from.

The session I went to this morning was led by the executive director, Andy Fisher, of the Community Food Security Coalition. It was an informative session about what their organization does and possible things we can expect on the national level. I was extremely struck by something Mr. Fisher said about food being a social justice issue. I know this subconsciously but haven't really approached this from a conscious level.

I also had an interesting discussion with a lady interested in local foods who lives in the Redding, CA, area. If you haven't been paying attention lately, water is a huge issue world wide. California is experiencing one of the worst droughts since 1977. An article came out this week indicating the feds may shut off all water to agriculture in CA for a three-week period. This lady indicated that farmers with orchards in her area for example could lose their trees and go out of business. They would likely never be able to return if this happens.

All of this will result in increasingly higher food prices. Food is not cheap and that's a lesson that we as Americans need to realize. We spend less of our income on food than many developed countries. Our farmers typically make less than minimum wage. I don't have any answers but thought I'd share these thoughts with you.

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