We have rung in the New Year and I can feel that 2014 will be a good one. I get excited just looking ahead to the upcoming events and know it’s time to make plans to participate. I believe it is through participation and shared dialogue that we can grow the organic industry, support organic farmers and come to consensus on controversial issues. Don’t miss the host of events that awaits you in 2014.
The first one, Eco Farm Conference, occurs in late January in beautiful Pacific Grove, California. This conference has educated more than 100,000 stakeholders since 1981. The conference welcomes all people engaged in the food system, from consumers to specialty crop producers, and is tailored to those looking for a technical edge. It aims to serve organic and ecological farmers and ranchers (large and small), handlers, marketers, students, educators, researchers, activists and governmental agencies. Workshops feature cutting-edge systems, ideas, and perspectives for a range of topics, including water and soil management, processing and distribution systems, habitat restoration, livestock and range management, regional food systems, food safety, food and agriculture policies, and much more.
The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) will hold their 35th annual conference in Granville, Ohio. The dates are February 15th and 16th and the theme this year is “Affirming Our Roots, Breaking New Ground”. Don’t miss the keynote speakers Atina Diffley and Kathleen Merrigan, and be sure to attend one of 100 educational workshops and enjoy the trade show, organic homemade meals and a fine Saturday evening of entertainment. The annual event draws more than 1,200 attendees from across Ohio and the Midwest.
If you are in the Southeast, don’t miss the Georgia Organics Conference, held Feb. 21-22, 2014, on Jeykll Island. This year’s theme is “Green Acres: Saving the Planet One Bite at a Time”. The focus will be on agriculture’s impact on the environment and the myriad ways organic growers are essential to restoring natural resources in Georgia and across the world. The two-day conference serves as one of the largest sustainable agriculture expos in the South and attracts famers, health advocates, gardeners, parents and everyone who cares about healthy foods, farms and families.
Following close behind is the MOSES Conference held in La Crosse, Wisconsin, Feb. 27- March 1, 2014. The MOSES Conference was started 25 years ago by 90 people who wanted to learn more about farming organically. It’s since grown to become the country’s foremost educational and networking event for the organic community. MOSES aims to educate, inspire and empower farmers to thrive in a sustainable, organic system of agriculture.
The National Organic Standards Board is a 15 member federal advisory board, appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture. Its mission is to give advice to the National Organic Program (NOP) on which substances should be allowed or prohibited in organic farming and processing, based on criteria under the Organic Foods Production Act. The board meets twice a year in various locations around the country to discuss agenda topics and vote on recommendations. The public is highly encouraged to attend and submit comments to provide additional perspectives. The next spring meeting is April 29th– May 1st in San Antonio, Texas, and the fall meeting is October 28th– 30th in Washington DC. Stay up to date and be involved with the organic regulatory process by attending these meetings. Changes can transpire that affect the organic industry and you can be an important part of the dialogue.
If you are feeling politically inclined, don’t miss the OTA’s annual Policy Conference held in Washington DC. This year’s tentative dates are May 21-22, 2014. The conference schedule will be based on the Congressional calendar. During the OTA’s signature policy event, participants can hear from and speak to legislators on issues vital to organic agriculture and trade. This two-day event is part of the OTA’s “Organic Week in Washington,” a series of activities coordinated to raise the profile of organic on Capitol Hill. You have to be a member to attend. If you aren’t, then what are you waiting for?
Those are just a few of the conferences and events that await us in 2014. There are many local and regional farming conferences in your backyard. You can make a difference for organic when you attend and participate. Let’s spread the word that organic is nourishing America’s families, revitalizing our communities and growing the nation’s diverse economy. Please be an active member of the organic community. Perhaps there is an event I haven’t mentioned you would like to highlight?