What is the connection between soil, your digestive tract and climate change?
I expect to learn the answer this weekend at the Northeast Organic Farming Association’s 41st summer conference, taking place on the UMass campus in Amherst. The theme is “Healing the Climate, Healing Ourselves: Regeneration through Microbiology.”
Nick and I will be attending many of the conference’s events and writing about them on this blog.
Through over 140 workshops, two keynote talks, farm tours, demonstrations and lots of networking, about 1,000 people will share information and support, and get re-energized to work to transform our food system and our society. The focus of many of the workshops will be on restoring healthy balance to the damaged ecosystems around us and also within our own bodies.
The Friday night keynote presenter is Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, who will share her work on the GAPS (Gut and Psychology ) diet, through which changes in diet can help heal many chronic illnesses by fostering the development of a healthy balance of microbes in the human digestive tract. Dr. Campbell-McBride will also lead an all-day intensive pre-conference workshop on Friday as well as three shorter workshops on Saturday and Sunday.
In the Saturday keynote address, Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) will discuss how we can fight climate change through agricultural and land use practices called carbon farming or regenerative agriculture. These farming and gardening methods can remove excess carbon from the air and fix it in the bodies of plants and the organic matter in the thriving soil microbial communities that result.
Following the keynote addresses in the evenings will be dances (a contradance on Friday and a dance party on Saturday) and films (“Inhabit” on Friday and “The Symphony of the Soil” on Saturday.)
Many of the workshops on Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday are categorized by various topics or “tracks.” A cluster of offerings will focus on Permaculture, Biodynamics, Cooperatives, Soil Carbon and Climate Change and Organic Land Care.
Tours of many nearby farms will give participants a close-up view of local organic farming’s many faces. I hope to tour the UMass Agricultural Learning Center and Nick is planning to learn about pests at Simple Gifts Farm.
It is difficult to choose among the many workshop possibilities. Beekeeping for Beginners or Improved Production for Gardens? Kitchen Medicine or Homegrown Seeds? Pruning Fruit Trees or Foraging for Wild Mushrooms? Nick and I will both attend as many events as we can, not only for our own learning, but also to share with you some of the cutting-edge techniques and ideas that we discover.
A fair on Saturday afternoon is free and open to the public. It will be from 3 to 6 p.m. at the UMass pond lawn, It begins with a parade and includes an Ox-Plop fundraiser, a pie-eating contest, meetups of various groups like homesteaders and herbalists, animals like Dogs herding Ducks and demonstrations like making sauerkraut and spinning wool. Exhibits and items for sale plus films and a sing-along at the Campus Center complete the fair’s program.
It is pretty wonderful that such an inspiring event happens every summer here in our small college town. As our civilization confronts the challenges of the coming decades, the skills of food production and ecosystem restoration will be essential. The connections between healthy food, a healthy planet and human health are becoming clearer. And who knew that a lot of those “germs” that my mother warned me about were essential to life and health? Stay tuned and we will share more about what we learn in future posts.
New readers of this blog may want to check out this quick overview of more than 120 past posts, divided up into categories such as simple living, frugality, living without, fruits & vegetables and climate change.