SOUTHERN SUSTAINABLE FARMING # 13
Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
P.O. Box 324, Elkins, AR 72727
Phone (501) 292-3714; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Keith Richards, Editor
SOUTHERN SUSTAINABLE FARMING is the quarterly
voice of the Southern SAWG, 50 member organizations
working for more sustainable agriculture in 13 Southern
states. Hard copy subscriptions via U. S. postal service:
$15 per year or $25 for two years
CONTENTS, part 1:
* KY HARVEST FESTIVALS PROMOTE LOCAL
* USDA ANNOUNCES COMMITMENT TO
KENTUCKY HARVEST FESTIVALS PROMOTE
LOCAL FAMILY FARMERS
by Keith Richards
How can potato and wild mushroom fritters dipped
in smoked tomato and horseradish sauce promote
sustainable agriculture? When those fritters are made by
Harriet Dupree of Dupree's Catering in Lexington,
Kentucky from organic potatoes and tomatoes grown by
John and Mary Ray on their farm near Mt. Sherman, then
served to hundreds of appreciative consumers at the Ohio
Valley Harvest Festival in downtown Louisville--that's
On successive weekends this past September,
Harvest Festivals were held in Louisville and Lexington to
showcase locally produced food. Over 50 of the cities'
finest chefs paired with producers from around the region
to create delectable dishes from their ripe farm products.
Within the atmosphere of a festive market, consumers
bought sample-size portions of the dishes while farmers
sold their produce and held educational demonstrations.
"There are a lot of tasting festivals," according to
Sue Weant, chairperson of the Harvest Festivals, "but this
one is different because it's about forming relationships."
Weant believes the events create a three-way
educational situation. Farmers and chefs get a chance to
work with each other and understand what it takes to create
a business relationship, opening up new local markets for
farmers and new suppliers for the restaurants. The urban
public is introduced to the bounty of farm products grown
just beyond their city limits, and meet the farmers, who
stand with the chefs throughout the afternoon. And
agricultural institutions, such as the Cooperative Extension
Service, Kentucky Department of Agriculture, and Farm
Bureau, are brought in as partners to promote
Raising Consumer Awareness & Farmer Profits
The Ohio Valley Harvest Festival, now in it's
second year, was the brainchild of Sarah Fritschner, food
editor for The Louisville Courier-Journal. Weant, who is
the regional coordinator of Mothers & Others for a Livable
Planet, immediately saw the festival's potential for raising
consumer awareness about sustainable farming, so she
became the driving force.
"The Mothers & Others philosophy is that the
marketplace is consumer driven," she says. "When you
educate consumers, they demand changes." With an
attendance of approximately 10,000 people at the
Louisville festival and another 4,000 at the first-year
Central Kentucky Harvest Festival in Lexington, Weant has
already seen an impact. Farmers and city folks are forming
fruitful relationships. The appreciation for local, fresh food
has jumped, and as a result, consumers are asking how they
can keep these families on the farm.
Although the chefs' creations are the primary draw,
festival organizers work hard to keep local farmers at the
center of the event. After the first festival, the steering
committee realized that the chefs were receiving all the
attention. So this year they put the farmers up front with
their produce displays--farmers' market style--and
educational animal demonstrations.
The festivals provide an immediate financial payoff
for the farmers. Nearly all of the ingredients that go into the
chefs' featured dishes--from eggplants to apples, goat
cheese to beef--is purchased from the farmers in advance.
Farmers also sell produce at festival stands--some reporting
sales as much as $1,000 per weekend. The chefs generally
break even by selling the samples for $1 to $4. Thanks to a
grant through the W. K. Kellogg Foundation for the
Louisville festival and sponsorship from the local public
radio station in Lexington, there is no fee charged to the
farmers or chefs.
Yet the dividends extend beyond the weekend. At
the first festival, David and Laura Sullivan, who raise
organic vegetables near Waddy, met a wholesaler who
supplies "white-tablecloth restaurants." He began buying all
of the arugula the Sullivans could grow, then worked with
them to increase their lettuce production for his markets.
Laura says the connection took them to a new level,
allowing David to quit his off-farm job and farm full-time.
Plans are already underway for 1997 Harvest
Festivals in both Lexington and Louisville, and there is
interest in holding a similar event somewhere in Western
Kentucky next year. For more information, contact Sue
Weant at 606-233-3056.
USDA ANNOUNCES COMMITMENT TO
On October 11, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture
Richard Rominger announced a new USDA-wide policy
embracing sustainable agriculture and sustainable
development. Rominger's remarks culminated three and a
half years of work by members of Southern SAWG and
other sustainable ag organizations to gain support for
integrating sustainability within the USDA.
Speaking at a pre-Farm Aid picnic on Tom
Trantham's South Carolina dairy farm, Rominger stated,
"USDA is committed to working toward the economic,
environmental, and social sustainability of diverse food,
fiber, agriculture, forest, and range systems. In a
Memorandum on Sustainable Development issued recently,
Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman articulated the need to
balance the goals of production and profitability,
stewardship of the natural resource base and ecological
systems, and viability of rural communities."
Last year, Rominger commissioned a 50-member
USDA Sustainable Agriculture Working Group to examine
barriers to adopting more sustainable farming methods.
After a series of workshops and field tours where
representatives of Southern SAWG and other organizations
explained the need for more support for sustainable
agriculture, the USDA SAWG identified 33 ways for the
USDA to overcome barriers.
Taking recommendations from reports by the
USDA SAWG and the President's Council on Sustainable
Development, the Secretary's Memorandum establishes a
USDA Council on Sustainable Development for the
coordination and integration of policies, programs,
activities, and education throughout the Department. Adela
Backiel, Director of Sustainable Development, will chair
Backiel said, "I'm very optimistic about how the
Council can encourage the breadth of USDA agencies to
meet the needs of all of USDA's customers and work
together to implement the recommendations."
After announcing the new policy, Rominger toured
Trantham's Dairy to showcase an example of sustainable ag
in the South. Trantham, one of the Southern SAWG leaders
who made a presentation to the USDA SAWG earlier this
year, has been developing a year-round grazing program for
his 80-cow operation.
"I was impressed by Tom's management philosophy
and practice of using a variety of high-protein grasses and
legumes as forage for his cows," Rominger said. "What
amazed me most was Tom's ability to change from a
situation where he was maximizing his production, but
losing his shirt, to his present approach of optimizing his
inputs and turning a profit."
Helping USDA Turn Their Commitment Into Action
While Southern SAWG has been instrumental in
getting verbal support from USDA, we will continue to
work for real policies, programs and funding that help
family farmers increase profitability, enhance
environmental stewardship, and improve their quality of
The day after Rominger made his announcement,
several hundred Southern farmers and rural community
leaders had an opportunity to praise Secretary Glickman
personally for his support. At a town meeting in Columbia,
SC prior to the Farm Aid '96 Concert, the crowd also
brought to his attention several issues fundamental to
creating sustainable agriculture.
"Southern SAWG is ready to help make sure the
Secretary's memorandum doesn't turn out to be an empty
document," said Michael Sligh, policy coordinator for the
working group. "Through the Campaign for Sustainable
Agriculture, we have a list of programs--such as SARE,
SDA, and ATTRA--that if funded fully in the next fiscal
year, would help USDA take a large step towards serving
Other issues mentioned at the town meeting
included implementing the national organic standards in
the spirit in which they were created, reforming the ag
bargaining act so family poultry growers will be able to
negotiate for fair contracts with the multi-national
corporations controlling the industry, and creating herd size
limits for the EQIP program so it truly supports family-size
farms rather than corporate farms.
For a copy of the full USDA SAWG report,
"Toward a More Sustainable American Agriculture,"
contact Michael Sligh at 919-929-7099.