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Student-Run Conference Explores Food, Agriculture, and Awareness

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The passion for agriculture is strong in the Pioneer Valley, and a student-run conference at Hampshire sought to provide support for the burgeoning local community of young farmers.

The Growing Farmers Conference: Food, Agriculture & Awareness was held February 19 in Hampshire's Red Barn. Panel discussions with local farmers, several workshops, and a screening of the documentary film The Greenhorns were among the events.

"We did this with the intention that it would be interactive, a conference that [could] be a little more horizontal than most, with participants contributing to the conversation," says Evan Thaler-Null 08F.

Thaler-Null, one of the key organizers along with Noah Kellerman 07F and Schuyler Loth 10F, was inspired to run the conference through his work with the National Young Farmers' Coalition and the Greenhorns, a nonprofit grassroots organization of young farmers and other collaborators. Their film, also called The Greenhorns, explores the lives of several young farmers. Collaboration with groups like these, says Thaler-Null, builds a support group that can prove invaluable. Loth agrees.

"I think it's a really good opportunity to inform the community locally, to get involved and continue to gain knowledge," she says.

Kellerman acknowledged that, while novice farmers got a lot out of the conference, it was also planned to be valuable for those more experienced in the field.

"There are not a lot of resources for people who have already gotten their hands dirty," says Kellerman, who is starting his own farm in eastern Massachusetts after he graduates this spring. "It will address how you achieve your goals, and do what you want to do. It's a pretty huge task to accomplish. One of the goals of the Young Farmers' Coalition is to start a multitude of networking opportunities, so perhaps Pioneer Valley farmers [were] able to set up connections at this conference."

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