As keynote speaker Daphne Miller stepped up to the podium in the President’s Hall at the Penn Stater for PASA’s 23rd annual conference, silence pervaded the room while excitement pulsed through the air. A family physician, Miller spoke about the journey she took and the people she met while doing the research for her recent book, Farmacology. PASA goers filled the seats in the conference hall, sat cross-legged on the floor, and lined the rear and side walls of the room standing in attention.
Miller’s work reveals the direct health benefits of sustainable farms—not only for the environment but for humans too. Her findings that being exposed to a diversity of microbes in the soil lends to healthy stomachs and low rates of asthma and allergies confirm what sustainable farmers and conscientious consumers have known all along. Eating good food makes for good health.
But Miller didn’t stop with physical health. She went on to tell a story about a woman who started an urban garden in the Bronx and ended up with a happier neighborhood. The positive community presence surrounding the garden lowered the crime rates in the area. It seems that in some cases, food is a cure-all.
With Miller’s inspirational conference kick-off, conference attendees had the run of the mill for workshops to choose from—anything from foraging for wild edibles to training and working with oxen to co-marketing strategies for working with a retailer.
In between workshops, one could keep busy for hours perusing the hundreds of vendors lining the hallways—all of them at the conference for very similar reasons—to connect, to share, to support, and to lift up others in the movement.
My first experience at the PASA conference was indeed eye-opening. Every state should have such a valuable resource. Small farmers fighting battles against the biggest players in the Ag game need and deserve such a support network that PASA offers.
There’s strength in numbers and wisdom to be found through shared experience. We have the tools, we have the research, we have the motivation, and we definitely have the enthusiasm. Coming together to stand for what we believe in, the PASA-bilities are truly endless.