Burlington, VT – The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT) has attracted two international giants in the food and farming world to speak at the 35th annual winter conference on February 18-20 at University of Vermont. Dr. Fernando Funes Monzote of Cuba and Dr. Vandana Shiva of India will both bring a message of resilience, hope, and the power of people to make slow—but radical—change.
This year’s theme, “Beyond Borders: Our Role in the Global Food Movement” is a departure from years past, which have focused on themes such as local food and soil. But Executive Director Enid Wonnacott and board member Mimi Arnstein—who leads farmer-to farmer exchanges in Cuba and elsewhere—felt the time was ripe to break open the boundaries of how we think about the impact of our local food movement in Vermont.
For Wonnacott, inspiration came at the Terra Madre International Slow Food Conference in Turino, Italy, where the slogan was “They are Giants, But We are Millions.” The faces of the “Millions” of small-scale farmers from around the globe were represented by some 7,000 delegates at Terra Madre as they came together to raise a collective voice against the corporate “Giants” – for food sovereignty, the survival of family farms, and resistance to GMOs.
When asked how she saw Vermont agriculture fitting into such a global people’s food movement, Wonnacott said, “NOFA-VT has always had a social change agenda, and at Terra Madre I really saw the power of this idea that all small-scale farmers around the world are in this together.” She noted that there are big similarities between how we farm and market food here in the state of Vermont with indigenous and local food systems all over the world.
On Sunday, February 19th, the keynote speaker is Dr. Vandana Shiva, who is perhaps best known for her tireless crusade on behalf of seed sovereignty and against GMOs, a message she has delivered for over three decades. Bill Moyers called her “the rock star in the worldwide battle against genetically modified seeds.” She started her center for seed sovereignty Navdanya (“nine seeds” in Hindi) to “protect the diversity and integrity of living resources, especially native seed, and to promote organic farming and fair trade.” Dr. Shiva is well known for her presence, conviction, and boldness when it comes to speaking out for what she believes in.
Dr. Fernando Funes Monzote will deliver Saturday’s keynote address. As an agronomist and farmer from Cuba, he is building a food revolution from his bio-intensive 20-acre model farm, Finca Marta. Now, when Cuba is undergoing such change and trade channels have opened up with the U.S, it will be prescient to have Funes give us his perspective.
The NOFA-VT Winter Conference offers more than 100 workshops for farmers, gardeners, and local food enthusiasts. Some of the most anticipated workshops include: “Herbal Digestive Bitters” taught by Guido Masé of Urban Moonshine, “New Developments in Study and Implementation of Northeastern Indigenous Agriculture” presented by Frederick Wiseman of The Seeds of Renewal Project, “Plants to Attract Pollinators and Create Biodiversity” presented by Lizabeth Moniz, and “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Fruit Trees” taught by Nicko Rubin.
There are also 5 daylong intensive workshops, diving deeply into the topics of winter farming and season extension, biological orcharding, healthy permaculture, organic medicinal herb production, and the art and science of grazing. The intensives are open to anyone interested in garnering in-depth information about specific subjects.
In addition to the speeches and workshops, attendees at the conference can enjoy a delicious lunch featuring local and organic ingredients, a lively Exhibitors’ Fair, a seed swap with High Mowing organic seeds, and helping to create a community art project with artist Bonnie Acker. For the next generation of farmers, gardeners, and foodies there is a Children’s Conference , which features hands-on workshops, art projects, yoga, outdoor play and much more.
Early registration for the conference is offered at a discounted rate until February 13th, with additional discounts for NOFA Vermont members and volunteers. More information and online registration is at http://nofavt.org/conference
About Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont: NOFA Vermont is member-based organization working to grow local farms, healthy food, and strong communities in Vermont. Our members are farmers, gardeners, educators and food lovers of all sorts – anyone who wants to help us create a future full of local food and local farms. Our programs include farmer and gardener technical assistance, farm to school support, organic certification, advocacy, an online apprentice and farm worker directory, an annual Winter Conference, and programs that work to ensure access to fresh, local food to all Vermonters, regardless of income.