This Friday and Saturday, I will be attending the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) Organic Farming Conference (OFC) in La Crosse, Wisconsin. By the time I had hear about it last year, it was too late to go, so this year I had it marked on my calendar, and I contacted the organizers months ago about a media pass. Now with my cheap hotel room reserved and fuel in the car I’m all set to go. What will I find at the conference?
This is the first conference of this type that I have gone to, although I have been to an organic show-and-tell shindig here at the UW, this conference will be new to me. From looking at the schedule, it seems that it is mostly oriented toward farmers, but there should be plenty for me to check out.
The first thing I will see when I get there is the seed swap, which will be a first for me. There is a possibility that I will be able to interview someone about seed saving and/or backyard breeding. Otherwise I’ll take a good look around and maybe get some comments from people.
Saturday will be an interesting day for me, though. At 8:30 in the morning, Charles Benbrook from The Organic Center will be giving a talk:
Telling the Story of Organic Food Health
Saturday I – 8:30am
More than raw data about the environmental impact of pesticides or the benefits of organic food, stories and illustrative examples provide an effective way to communicate about organic agriculture. The Organic Center’s Chuck Benbrook will share meaningful ways to provide a clear understanding of the consumer and environmental health benefits of organic farming.
Then, at 10:30 am, Margaret Mellon from the Union of Concerned Scientists will be giving a keynote address:
DR. MARGARET MELLON “Two Views of Food Safety: Organic Agriculture and Biotechnology”
Saturday, February 27th
Dr. Margaret Mellon directs the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. The program promotes a transition to sustainable agriculture and focuses on critically evaluating the use of biotechnology in plant and animal agriculture as well as assessing animal agriculture’s contribution to the rise of antibiotic-resistant disease. Trained as both a scientist and a lawyer, Mellon considers food safety through two lenses: organic agriculture and biotechnology. Exploring how people relate to food safety in these contexts as well as through scientific and legal perspectives, Mellon’s work considers how to put the issue of food safety into the context of the ongoing debates about the future of agriculture.
I have requested an interview with both Benbrook and Mellon, and as of today they both agreed. Their talks are back-to-back, however if I have to skip part of lunch to do it I will! I will be interviewing them by audio, and I will post the interviews to the blog. If there is something that you would like me to ask them, please let me know in the comments below, or send me a message through our contact form.
There is also another talk at 2 pm which I would like to catch.
GMOs and the Fight for Organic Integrity
Saturday II – 2:00pm
While evidence mounts to show that GMOs harm humans, fail to increase crop yields, and will contaminate organic crops, a new wave of GMOs is being introduced, threatening the ability of consumers to choose non-GMO foods. Join Center for Food Safety staff attorney Zelig Golden to learn about legal strategies to protect organic crops from contamination.
I wonder what he thinks about protecting the integrity of conventional white cotton from contamination by colorful organic cotton? Pollen flows both ways.
But one talk I am certainly looking forward to is this one!
Managing Nests for Native Bees
Saturday III – 4:00pm
Artificial nests can boost local populations of native pollinators, but they must be actively managed to avoid negative impacts on local bee populations. Join the Xerces Society’s Eric Mader for an overview of native bee biology, and guidance on how to construct and manage artificial nests for native pollinators in an ecologically sound manner.
Eric Mader is actually speaking in my building on Friday, but I will miss his seminar due to the conference, so it is great that he will be there because I’ve been meaning to build some artificial nests for bumblebees this year and I bet he will know what I need to do. This talk will be a great way to end the day before the 4-hour drive back to Madison.