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Exciting New Changes at Southern SAWG

The Southern SAWG Board of Directors has announced the hiring of Steve Muntz of Mt. Sterling, Kentucky, as the Executive Director of the organization effective April 1, 2014.

Board President Stephan Walker points to Steve's 30 plus years of working with organizations and producers in the Southern Region as strengths he brings to the position. In a recent announcement, Walker invites all of our friends/members and partner organizations to join us in extending a warm-hearted welcome to Steve.

Muntz takes over from Jim Lukens who is retiring to the farm after holding the Executive Director position for six of Southern SAWG's twenty-three years.


Dear Sustainable Agriculture Colleagues:

JimLukens

I have enjoyed serving as Southern SAWG's Executive Director for the past six years, and now I am looking forward to more time on the farm and less time at the computer. I am leaving the Executive Director position, and, weather permitting, on April 1st I will
be fixing fence instead of sitting behind a desk.

I am excited that Steve Muntz is stepping into the Executive Director role, bringing skills and experience that will allow him to successfully guide the Southern SAWG team over the coming years. The economic, social, and political environments for this work continue to change. In recent years the Southern region has experienced tremendous growth in the number and strength of organizations working toward a sustainable farm and food system. I am confident that Steve and Southern SAWG's capable and experienced staff, with guidance and support from the Board of Directors, will continue to shape programs and the annual conference to encourage and strengthen that growth, and to increase the effectiveness of the collective effort in the region.

I have appreciated the opportunity to work within the sustainable farm and food movement as a Southern SAWG employee. I look forward to continuing to work within the movement, although from a position that more frequently involves a tractor seat.  

-Jim
JimLuke@ipa.net


Dear Friends of Southern SAWG,

SteveMuntz

I am very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to serve as the new Executive Director of the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group. Southern SAWG has been an important part of my life for most of the last two decades.   As a small farmer, I have been inspired and empowered by the work of Southern SAWG. The annual conference always re-energizes me to try out new approaches on the farm and to encourage other farmers I work with to do the same. It is an amazing opportunity to stretch and sharpen my thinking by interacting with so many great farmers and organizations working to build a better food and farming future. While I am less familiar with Southern SAWG's other programmatic activity, outside of the conference, I am learning quickly about the exceptional efforts that are underway and being planned.

 My hat is off to Jim Lukens and his team for the great work they have been doing! As I take my turn in the leadership of the organization I hope to build on the foundation they have laid while listening to our board and partner organizations as we look to the future. Building a sustainable food and farming system is a very expansive mission and I believe that Southern SAWG needs to look closely at our leadership role for this goal in the South. Are we doing what is most needed by our other partners to foster the movement? How can we better coordinate, communicate and cooperate to gain momentum? Resources for our work are very tight these days. How can we find the resources needed to do this work without competing with our closest allies?

 I have a great deal to learn as I begin my new work. Communication with our partner organizations and farmers will be a critical part of my learning. I look forward to visiting with many of you over the next several months as we chart the new way ahead for Southern SAWG. Thank you for all the support you have given us in the past. I will do my best to earn your continued support for the future.

Steve Muntz
stevemuntz@ssawg.org
(859) 498-0678

What's Love Got To Do With It? Alot, Actually!

Our Conference keynote speaker was Anthony Flaccavento, of SCALE, Inc. (www.ruralscale.com)The title may have bewildered a few folks, but “What’s Love Got to do with it?Channeling Passion for Local Foods into a Movement for Community, Economic and National Renewal” went straight to the heart of who we are as sustainable farmers, foodies and Southern SAWG.

Anthony Flaccavento began by talking about Uncle Benny and a remark about farming, “Dis here organic gardening… If you got bugs, you gotta spray em!” Anthony’s life of research, education, and providing technical assistance has been to refute Uncle Benny and his generational beliefs. This history includes great economic changes and the lack of organic programs with few markets and small towns losing their downtown businesses. He quoted a TVA Economist from the mid 1990’s, who said, “We don’t include agriculture in our statistics because it is not considered part of the economy”.

Flaccavento went on to share some of the deadly health statistics we face related to the amount of corn sweetener consumed in the United States, 1996 – 2002, political issues and government subsidies, along with the stark fact that “by 1990, over half the US population lived within a 3 minute drive of a McDonalds”.  Our “land of opportunity”, he believes, “is now the most unequal country of all the developed nations in the world”. He feels that we have been losing ground because of the disconnects between local actions and state and federal policy; between community conversations and “public debate”; and between rhetoric, values and spending”.

Our inspiration and hope comes from the recent USDA ag census in 2012, which was the “first census in generations to show net increase in number of farmers”. With the USDA reporting that in 2011, “Local, regional food sales exceed $5 Billion, and Organic sales approach $30 Billion” we can have hope for the future of sustainable agriculture!

As Anthony called out the list of grassroots initiatives, such as “Local marketing, season extension programs, the emergence of “food hubs”, both rural and urban, CSA-based food hubs, and the fact that farmers markets not just for “foodies” anymore,  I could feel the weight of our movement.

Another exciting aspect of today’s good food movement is the use of EBT at farmers markets. This “reached $11,750,000 in 2011, 300% more than 2008.”  At SCALE, Inc. Anthony and his team performed a study in 2011 that showed “At 75% of farmers markets in the Southeast and Appalachia, everyday foods are at or below supermarket prices.” These provide many opportunities beyond economic, but social and of revitalization.

To his point, What DOES Love have to do with it? To answer, he quoted Wendell Berry, “Love is not a feeling.Love is a practice”, and then asked the audience, “How do we put love into practice to build a better world”? He noted that the Essential Elements of Love are a lot like learning to farm – practice, empathy, acceptance, humility, patience AND urgency!

Anthony called on each of us to change the negative political situation by “Building a strategy that is grounded in Love, Based on Connections, Focusing on Shared Realities; Local foods, from big cities to tiny towns. Together we can make the “love of local eating become the foundation of a new politics of love, connection and commonality”!

 

Anthony Flaccavento is an organic farmer near Abingdon, Virginia, in the heart of Appalachian Virginia, who has written and spoken about sustainable development, ecology and economics, food systems, and Appalachian issues extensively. Anthony has received a number of awards and honors for his work, including the Ford Foundation Leadership for a Changing World Award, the Arthur Smith Environmental Stewardship award, and selection by Blue Ridge magazine in 2009 as one of central Appalachia's most important agents for positive change. He was a Kellogg National Food and Society Policy Fellow during 2007 and 2008 (now known as the Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy's Food and Society Fellows). Anthony has a BS degree in Agriculture and Environmental Science from the University of Kentucky and a Masters degree in Economic and Social Development from the University of Pittsburgh.

Growing Farm Profits Workshop Coming to Kentucky!

Hello LEXINGTON, KY – Are you ready for our "Growing Farm Profits" workshop? This is a farmer-to-farmer training taught by three well-respected nationally-known speakers being held February 1-3 at E.S. Good Barn in Lexington.  It is geared toward horticultural producers to help them understand factors that impact profitability, including financial records, crop budgets, packing shed design, food safety procedures and marketing.

Participants will learn such things as how to track costs in each farm operation, using records to discover their most profitable crops, harvesting and packing techniques to increase shelf-life and profits, and more.

The $25 registration includes continental breakfast and lunch all 3 days, and resource materials (valued at more than $100) including a Post Harvest Handling workbook containing harvesting and packing details for virtually every type of produce, and Veggie Compass, which can be used to discover profit areas, and to predict profit outcomes based on different farm scenarios.

Instructors are Ellen Polishuk, Potomac Vegetable Farms (VA), Jim Munsch, beef producer and business consultant (WI) and Atina Diffley, vegetable farmer and author (MN).

Registration is at http://communityfarmalliance.org/young-and-beginning-farmers/growing-farm-profits-conference/

Hotel information is available: email carolyn@cfaky.org

For information email or call Carolyn Gahn at carolyn@cfaky.org  or 859-925-3307

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Partners in this training include Southern SAWG, USDA Southern Risk Management Education Center, Kentucky State University, Kentucky Horticulture Council and Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development along Community Farm Alliance, Seed Capital Kentucky, and Louisville Farm to Table.

Southern Hospitality at it's Finest!

What a wonderful host city we have in Mobile, AL! Everyone attending the Southern SAWG 23rd Annual Conference has been treated so well this weekend - warm and friendly service and hospitality. We would like to acknowledge the hard work of our local partner organization - the Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network (ASAN) and their director, Alice Evans.

The Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network is a statewide grassroots network providing farmer-led training, resources, and a community of support for a growing number of sustainable farmers throughout Alabama. Their members share a commitment to a food system that is dynamic, diverse, nurturing, just and sovereign at all levels. You can read more about their work at www.asanonline.org - Say thanks when you see them. 

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Join us in Mobile, AL. Register Onsite - We'll see you there!

Come on down and register onsite. There are still hotel rooms available at the Holiday Inn for you.  We look forward to seeing you there, along with well over a thousand of our closest friends!

You won’t want to miss any of the workshops and networking with sustainable agriculture and food systems leaders and innovators - especially our Key note speaker, Anthony Flaccavento.

Anthony Flaccavento will be presenting our Pleanary Keynote on Saturday morning – “What’s Love Got To Do With It? Channeling Passion For Local Foods Into A Movement For Community, Economic And National Renewal”

Anthony Flaccavento is an organic farmer near Abingdon, Virginia, in the heart of Appalachian Virginia, who has written and spoken about sustainable development, ecology and economics, food systems, and Appalachian issues extensively. Anthony has been working on community environmental and economic development in central Appalachia for the past 25 years. In 1995, he founded Appalachian Sustainable Development, which became a regional and national leader in sustainable economic development. Anthony left ASD in December, 2009 to found SCALE, Inc, a private consulting business dedicated to catalyzing and supporting ecologically healthy regional economies and food systems. SCALE works with community leaders, farmers, foundations, economic development agencies and others in Appalachia, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan and other communities. and continues to do so today.

Anthony has received a number of awards and honors for his work, including the Ford Foundation Leadership for a Changing World Award, the Arthur Smith Environmental Stewardship award, and selection by Blue Ridge magazine in 2009 as one of central Appalachia's most important agents for positive change. He was a Kellogg National Food and Society Policy Fellow during 2007 and 2008 (now known as the Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy's Food and Society Fellows). Anthony has a BS degree in Agriculture and Environmental Science from the University of Kentucky and a Masters degree in Economic and Social Development from the University of Pittsburgh.
Don't miss this inspirational session.

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Conference Lodging Update!

Rooms at the Renaissance Mobile Riverview Plaza Hotel and the Battle House Renaissance Hotel are currently sold out. Rooms may become available at our main conference hotels if there are cancellations, so check for availability and pricing. But in the meantime, we have arranged a discount rate at this nice hotel down the street (it’s the round hotel!):

 Holiday Inn Downtown Historic District Mobile

(8 blocks from Convention Center)

301 Government Street, Mobile AL 36602

251-694-0100

Southern SAWG group rate:  $85.00 plus taxes

We'll see you soon!

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