This past Saturday was Just Food‘s 11th (and my 2nd) CSA in NYC Conference. I spoke with Jacquie Berger at the Expo, and she said the biggest complaint she heard this year was, “There were too many workshop options to choose from!” I told her that I thought that’s the best kind of problem to have, but I admit that I have to agree. I wanted to attend no fewer than five of the AM workshops and had bulleted three of the afternoon sessions. In the end, I let my extracurricular obligations dictate my attendance.
Thus, in the morning, as a staff representative for GetDirtyNYC, I went to the Urban Food Production panel, where John Ameroso (Cornell University), Aley Kent (Heifer International), Kristen Schafenacker (Added Value), and Anastasia Cole (Brooklyn Grange) all spoke about urban agriculture projects going on in the five boroughs. John carefully explained the evolution of growing food in the city, beginning with community gardens that were meant mostly for individual consumption during a time when the cost of living in NYC was even worse (if you can believe it) and community gardens allowed people access to affordable food. Next came the idea of an urban garden, whereby a group of people farmed collectively, perhaps sharing the various crops among their garden community. Finally, there now is urban agriculture, which is all about production and growing food more efficiently with an aim to feed people who are not necessarily working the farm.
Interestly, the morning keynote was given by Roxbury Farm’s Jean-Paul Courtens, who gave several pertinent statistics about small farms and the global food supply. Among the more surprising figures was that seven percent of the world’s food supply is provided by urban gardens. The work being done by the urban agriculturists backs up this statistic. (On a side note, 12 percent of the world’s food supply comes from hunting/foraging; nearly 50 percent comes from 1.5 billion family or “peasant” farms.)
In the afternoon session, I joined in with Cathy Erway and Hungry Filmmakers as the representative of Jimmy’s No. 43. Technical issues aside (next year, I’ll bring my speakers so Cathy doesn’t have to hold a microphone over the computer!), the biggest problem was all thse great short films couldn’t be viewed in a one-hour, 15-minute timeslot. However, those who are interested to find out what is going on with the media should definitely join Hungry Filmmakers on May 11 for their next viewing/talkback.
The favorite part of every Just Food CSA in NYC Conference is the farmer panel. John-Paul was joined by Chris Cashen (The Farm at Miller’s Crossing), Zaid Kudieh (Norwich Meadows Farm), and Elizabeth Henderson (Peacework Farm and NOFA). Among the many serious issues discussed, there were some moments of levity and tenderness, as these farmers spoke of the bonding that takes place between them and their significant others while running a family farm. (Elizabeth got the biggest laugh of the day, however, when she admitted that she preferred not working with a “pillow partner.”)
The Expo gave us all a chance to mingle over Brooklyn Brewery and Kelso beer, Clover Bee Foods chocolate truffles, lovely cheeses, and wine from Upstate Wine Co., among many others. Because I love that this conference is so affordable ($15 for members, and that includes lunch!), I’ll give a shout out to Jarden Home Brands (makers of Ball Brand), which was the main sponsor of the conference.