In late March 2011, the Central Susquehanna Valley Organic Crop Growers Network met over breakfast to discuss tillage and pest management practices. The meeting was hosted by Columbia Co. Cooperative Extension Educator, Dave Hartman, at the Watson Inn in Watsontown, PA. Three members of the network shared presentations with the group about their experience with various tillage and pest management practices.
March 16, 2011 is a day to remember in the history of organic agriculture as it marked the start of the first USDA conference dedicated to organic farming. The Organic Farming Systems Research Conference: Exploring Agronomic, Economic, Ecological, and Social Dimensions was the result of a cooperative effort by multiple entities within USDA (ERS, ARS, NIFA, OSEC, OCS) and stakeholder organizations the Organic Farming Research Foundation and the Organic Trade Association. One of the goals of the conference was to bring together research experts and industry representatives from across the country to review the science on organic agriculture and develop a research agenda for the future. The organizers really hit their mark, as the conference was packed with fascinating material ranging from hard data from prominent researchers to real-life experiences from outstanding organic famers.
Computer simulation studies by scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggests that a dairy cow living year-round in the great outdoors may leave a markedly smaller ecological hoofprint than its more sheltered sisters. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) agricultural engineer Al Rotz led a team that evaluated how different management systems on a typical 250-acre Pennsylvania dairy farm would affect the environment.
The halls of the Penn Stater Conference Center bustled with excited people from all walks of life who came to learn about and show support for sustainable agriculture at the 20th annual Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture Conference. I was there to learn about biodiesel and attend the workshop ‘Energy Efficiency & Renewables: Improving Your Bottom Line and the Health of the Environment.’ As I finished my cookies and organic milk, I dodged some fellow attendees and slipped into the workshop room where John Williamson, a farm scale biodiesel producer, was presenting. Williamson’s family business, State Line Farm Biofuels, is located on the southern edge of Vermont and has stirred up a lot of interest in the biodiesel world.
The Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program, a funding and outreach program of the USDA, recently announced the 2011 awards to farmers, educators, and agricultural community organizations in the Northeast. Pennsylvania will host 12 projects with a total funding level of $406,284. Additionally, Penn State Extension is collaborating with projects awarded to principal investigators based in Vermont and Maryland.
Check out the wide variety of sustainable agriculture events organized by Penn State, the Pennsylvania Women's Agricultural Network, and others.