Saturday, February 13, 2010

PASA Pictures

I attended this year's PASA (Penna. Association for Sustainable Agriculture) conference last weekend. In the blizzard. On a whim. I'm SOOOOOO glad I did. What I found there was profound; in the midst of the season's first actual blizzard, alone, I found something wonderful. THESE ARE MY PEOPLE! Peter once said that, when we were walking the street of New York, and I understood. He felt at home there, like things made sense. I felt that way at PASA. The unselfconscious women, the long hair, the plain clothes, the bearded men: there were MY people. Funny it should happen in State College, PA, but there it was. A little piece of my soul.
I had to take one of my previously planned vacation days to get there before the snow. I'm glad I did; though I managed to get there before the afternoon lectures on Friday, by the time I was ready to return that evening (my motel was a few miles away) the roads were too snowy to navigate in my light truck, so I had to take a cab. But I digress.
The first lecture I attended was by the author and keynote speaker Lisa M. Hamilton. Her stories of farmers that buck the system, that transcend the agribusiness machine and maintain their connection to the earth on an intimate level were wonderful. She read excerpts from her book, "Deeply Rooted: Unconventional Farmers in the Age of Agribusiness" which I'm currently reading and enjoying, and explained the relationships she had made and the insights she had gathered. Her experiences further validated my own; the farm I've been working with and the people I have met have become that much more noble in my mind since hearing her stories. Here she is:
There were so many wonderful presentations. I bought audio Cd's of those that I was unable to attend, so I could still learn what they had to teach me. It was a wonderful conference. It was so fulfilling, and even though I live in a small city and have limited land, my experiences at Flint Hill Farm, my urban gardening and my past experiences were all enriched by what I learned there. Below you see the silent auction and raffle. I was amazed by the variety and quality of the artisanal products offered by the farmers in Pennsylvania. We are a very fortunate and fecund state.
I bought some hand-painted, hand spun wool, and some multi-colored roving to make a scarf on Friday. On Saturday, after digging out my truck in street shoes, I returned and bought a pair of hand knitted socks. I spent the rest of the weekend in those socks. I wasn't the only member who walked the halls on the Penn Stater in my stocking feet that weekend. My people...
The other keynote speaker, Michael Reynolds, was wonderful. He was brilliant, real, thoughtful, fun. He was someone I'd like to spend time with. He is an architect who has a vision; he uses the materials available to him in a manner that makes them most useful to the final inhabitants of the homes he builds. His sustainable houses are the solution to the world's problems of both energy consumption and material conservation. I bought a copy of his movie "Garbage Warrior", which I first viewed on Friday night at the conference, in a snowstorm. He was there that night. I was too smitten to speak to him. ("I'm not worthy..."). I love old hippies.
Here's what I woke up to the following morning. Long story/short: I made use of the city's taxis. I shared one with a couple from Bermuda who had come in just for the conference. I met a former Penn State alum who was driving in his retirement. I met a mom who was supporting her family. I met a nice neo-hippie guy who knew about PASA through his girlfriend. And one guy didn't talk much, but that's OK. He got me back alive. Those roads were a mess! We got 18 inches of snow that weekend. I was really happy to have my 62 degree, no frills motel room (knowing Earl has made me appreciate shelter, no matter how humble). That coffee pot was my best friend (along with my new socks and my wool blanket from home!) (More stories of the presentations to follow).
The moral of this story is this: follow your heart. I found a little bit of my lost self at PASA. It's easy to push back those parts of your soul that are inconvenient when you're raising children and paying bills, but they won't go away. And when they whisper to you, you need to listen. I listened. And I found them despite the snow last weekend. It was a good experience. I'll go again. I'll keep listening.


  1. Yes! PASA brings my people together. I am so grateful that I found PASA and have made friends with several members nearby. I'm glad you got to the conference and appear to have caught the bug. I've been to four conferences now, and plan to attend every year I am able. I'm thinking about coming to the potluck at Flint Hill too, so maybe we might see each other there?

  2. That would be great! I'll be there. I sure hope you can make it.

    Funny story: I went to my hometown (Boyertown) on Saturday to go vegetable shopping. My friend and I always stop at the Farmers' market (Zerns) and at Frecon Orchard, where I worked as a kid, in the 70's. The owner had been to PASA too! We struck up a nice's like a cult! A happy, healthy, wholesome cult! What a nice surprise! I'll go again next year; it was the highlight of my year so far!

  3. Just wanted to make sure you saw this opinion-editorial I co-wrote with Urban Harvest for yesterdays Omaha World-Herald about urban and vertical gardening in the heart of Africa's large slum Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya. Here is the link, post to our blog at the Worldwatch Institute called "Nourishing the Planet":

    All the best, Danielle Nierenberg (

  4. What a perfect example of using what you have to produce nutritious foods! Thank you for sharing your article.