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August

In the “three-legged stool” of sustainable agriculture, the environmental leg often receives the most popular and academic attention. But in order for farmers to operate in ways that are ecologically sustainable, they must also consider the economic and social implications of their farm management practices. The employment and management of hired farm workers raise critical questions for small-scale farm operators with regards to the economic viability of their farms as well as the social sustainability of their practices.

Penn State Extension is partnering with several organizations to launch Pennsylvania MarketMaker, an online tool to connect buyer and sellers within the food industry. The tool provides access to free, in-depth marketing information to help farm and food business owners find markets for their products throughout Pennsylvania and other participating states.

As someone with an abiding interest in sustainability standards and certification, I was excited to see that the Food Alliance had a session planned at this year’s PASA conference. The Food Alliance began in 1994 in the Northwest region, where it is well-recognized and has a very strong presence. It more recently moved into the Midwest, and is only just beginning operations in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region.

SPIN farming takes advantage of available land in urban backyards.

At the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture’s Farming for the Future Conference this past February, there were no doubt a lot of people in attendance who were inspired by the growing enthusiasm for local and sustainable food systems to pursue farming as a business and livelihood. But would-be growers often encounter two seriously intimidating entry barriers to making a go in farming: access to the land and capital that starting a farm venture requires. Fortunately, opportunities in urban and peri-urban environments may offer a way around these barriers and a path towards viable, small-scale agricultural enterprises.