PASA – Sharing the Sustainable Story

We returned from our 4th time speaking at the PASA (Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture) Conference a week ago today. Every year we attend PASA is like taking a nice long drink of cold refreshing water. We thoroughly enjoy our interactions with farmers of all walks of life, and the PASA family is a particularly rich one – not only of people with tremendous skill and experience, but a very educated and deeply caring group of folks that really get at the meat of why we should care about agriculture in general and sustainable agriculture in particular.

Our connection with PASA stems from Spencer’s time in Grad school at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania in the MS3 program (Masters of Science in Sustainable Systems). While there, he had the opportunity to attend PASA, and has been attending ever since. The caliber of keynote speakers and conference workshop speakers has always been enlightening, and the themes always compelling. This year particularly spoke to us; it was called Ready to Grow: Sharing the Sustainable Story.
The Friday keynoter was Diane Wilson, a Texas shrimper who fought big business alone, through 3 hunger strikes on her shrimp boat to get them to stop dumping toxins in the bay that she and her family had shrimped for her whole life. She wrote a book about it called An Unreasonable Woman: The True Story of Shrimpers, Politicos, Polluters and the Fight for Seadrift, Texas. The Saturday keynoter was Mark McAfee, an organic raw milk dairy farmer from California who is internationally recognized as an expert in raw milk production. He has spoken on this and the health benefits of raw dairy products in fifteen states and three countries. He invented the first “dietary supplements” made from fresh raw colostrum, and secured their certification from the FDA and DHS. Mark created and published the first international raw milk safety standards at http://www.rawusa.org/. Both speakers were riveting and had incredible sustainable stories to share.
We were privileged to share our stories in the form of two talks we offered: Sell What You Love, Love What You Sell: Whole Farm Marketing. & The Food Revolution: Notes From the Front. It was estimated by conference organizers that our talks had between 150-200 attendees each (very flattering)! The entire conference boasted 2000+ attendees. Quite a nice event! This would be enough, but the trade show is always exceptional, and I must say, this year we may have even been persuaded to purchase a BCS walk-behind tiller! We were swayed by the new knowledge that you can add axle extenders so that the BCS can straddle a bed, AND there’s so many more attachments than just the tiller to add to it! More on this in future posts, to be sure!
More pressingly, there were requests for us to post information from our talks on our blog so that folks could share it with their friends. Firstly, we will post the most popularly requested info: the ancient quotes Spencer put together for his section of our Food Revolution talk. If there are specific requests from other folks, please send us an email, or simply leave a comment at the bottom of this post. OK, for those of you who didn’t attend the talk, the gist was that basically, the food revolution has been going on for millenia, and we’re enamored with it’s current manifestation – the local movement. There have been food trends, poems, and more interestingly, rants about big business shutting out the small farmer written about by ancient luminaries. In fact, the first Latin prose book was called de Agricultura! At any rate, you’ll get the gist of the talk through these quotes. Spencer was a Greek & Latin Languages undergrad, so any chance to share his love of that era is always embraced. These are all Spencer’s direct translations from the original Latin. It is, in fact, through Spencer’s readings of the agricultural Latin works through college that initially made us want to farm. ENJOY! Any comments are greatly appreciated!

Ancient Criticism of Big Agriculture
•“In earlier times the ancients believed in the primary importance of checking the size of farms…that it was more important to sow less and plow it better….And truthfully, the Latifundia have destroyed Italy, and soon they will destroy the provinces too – six masters owned half of Africa….” Pliny the Elder Historia Naturalis, XVIII, 35 1-6

•“The mathematician teaches me to measure out my latifundia, it would be better to teach me how much should be enough for a man. He teaches me to count and adapts my fingers to greediness.” Seneca Ad Lucilium Epistlae Morales, Epistle LXXXVIII, 10

•“Therefore, moderation in acquiring land, as in all things, should be exercised. Only so much should be purchased that we may be able to master, so that we do not take away enjoyment from others, like the very powerful do, when they hold large borders, which they cannot even go around, and then leave the to be trampled by cattle, wasted by wild beasts, or leave them occupied by debtors and by slaves.” Columella De Re Rustica, I, 3,1.

•“You have Latifundia. You are nursing a viper under your wing.” Petronius, Satyricon, 77.

Stories of the Noble Farmer
•“Gaius Furius Chresimus, a freed slave, got much larger returns on his rather small farm, than his neighbors got from very large farms, and so he was much envied and was accused of stealing away other harvests with magic potions.” Pliny the Elder Historia Naturalis, XVIII, 41 5-9
•He was brought to trial and there he showed the implements of his magic, good tools, well-fed oxen, and healthy workers. He said “These are my potions, citizens. I cannot show you my night-work, my sleeplessness, my sweat… Our elders said that the most fertile things on the farm are the eyes of the farmer.” Pliny the Elder Historia Naturalis, XVIII, 43 2-7

•“In the old days, Senators lived in the countryside…. Even L. Quinctius Cincinnatus was plowing his field when they brought the message that he was to be made dictator, in the days when C. Servilius Ahala killed Sp. Maelius who was trying to be made king. ” Cicero De senectute, XVI, 56

•“In my opinion, I can think of no happier life, as regards to occupation, than agriculture, since it benefits the entire human race, is wholesome, and gives fullness and abundance in all things, provides food for people and sacrifice to the gods….” Cicero De senectute, XVI, 56

A Poet Longing for the Rustic Farm Life
•“Naked, I seek the camps of those desiring nothing. A deserter, I am eager to quit the parties of the rich…a poor man in the midst of great wealth. My stream of pure water, and woods of a few acres and sure faith of a grain crop, is a happier fate than that of the shining lord of fertile Africa.” Horace Odes, Book III, ode XVI

•“Now, soon, our royal estates will leave few arable acres, developments with artificial ponds will be seen spreading wider than the Lucrine lake, and the lonely plane-tree will conquer the elms… not thus was it proscribed under the watch of Romulus, or shoeless Cato, or our elders. With them the private holdings were small, the communal property was great.” Horace Odes, Book II, ode XV

Longing for the Rustic Peasant Food
•“I met a man in the wilderness, with only a few rustic acres that weren’t even that fertile…carrying home an armload of unbought produce.” Virgil Georgics, Book IV, 125-46

•“It made no difference in that house whether you asked for the master or the servant, the old couple was the whole household: the same people gave the orders and carried them out. SO when the gods entered the house…Baucis fanned the fire to flame, her husband, Philemon, brought in some vegetables from his carefully watered garden…lifted down some well-smoked bacon from the rafters and cut off a small piece and boiled it until tender. The table was set with wild berries, preserved cherries, endives, radishes, cottage cheese, and roasted eggs… in the center of it all was golden honey-comb.” Ovid Metamorphoses, Book VIII, 640-685

Marcus Porcius Cato’s Practical Advice on Farming
•“Vinea est prima, si vino bono et multo est, secundo loco hortus inriguus, si sub oppido sint, tertio salictum, quarto oletum, quinto pratum, sexto campus frumentarius, septimo silva caedua, octavo arbustum, nono glandaria silva.” Cato De Agricultura, Book I, 7
•“First, should be a vineyard, if the wine is good and plentiful, second choice is an irrigated garden, if it is close to town, third is a willow-thicket; fourth, an olive grove; fifth, a pasture; sixth, a grain field; seventh, a wood-lot; eighth, an orchard-vineyard; ninth, a nut orchard.” Ovid Metamorphoses, Book VIII, 640-685

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