SAVE THE DATE IN 2014 – 27TH ANNUAL NOFA/Mass Winter Conference on January 11.
NOFA/Mass Winter Conference attendees register for a whole day of workshops, a keynote program, over 75 exhibitors and vendors, a children's conference and optional all organic meal catered by Chartwells, Worcester State University Dining Services. Over the years, NOFA/Mass has presented a wide array of thoughtful, engaging and important keynote speakers, including Joel Salatin, Eliot Coleman, Michael Phillips, Jean Jeavons, Karen Washington and other thoughtful leaders in the food movement.
We are now accepting workshop proposals for the 2014 Winter Conference. The conference draws about 1,000 people from Massachusetts and neighboring states. Participants include seasoned and beginning farmers, urban homesteaders, backyard gardeners, food activists, and many other engaged learners. If you have skills to share with our constituents, please submit a workshop proposal now.
Karen Washington addressed the conference as a whole in her keynote speech, Hands across the Fields: Bridging the rural/ urban connections. What role do we each play in working towards a sustainable food system? Karen also offered an all-day seminar on School Gardens 101, Feeducation: Bringing Agriculture Back in the Classroom.
Karen Washington has lived in New York City all her life, and has been a resident of the Bronx for over 26 years. Since 1985 Karen has been a community activist, striving to make the New York City a better place to live. As a community gardener and board member of the New York Botanical Gardens, Karen has worked with Bronx neighborhoods to turn empty lots into community gardens. As an advocate, she has stood up and spoken out for garden protection and preservation. As a member of the La Familia Verde Garden Coalition, she helped launched a City Farms Market, bringing garden fresh vegetables to her neighbors. Karen is a Just Food board member and Just Food Trainer, leading workshops on food growing and food justice to community gardeners all over the city. Karen is a board member and former president of the New York City Community Garden Coalition, a group that was founded to preserve community gardens. She also Co- Founded Black Urban Growers (BUGS) an organization of volunteers committed to building networks and community support for growers in both urban and rural settings. Professionally Karen has been a Physical Therapist for over 30 years, and she continues to balance her professional life with community service.
Excerpts from 2013 Keynote:
Summary & edits by Cathleen O’Keefe
I moved to the Bronx back in 1985 as a single parent of two and purchased a home. I had no farming or gardening experience. However, I did have a huge backyard and had three options: either to cement it, put in a lawn, or grow food. I chose to grow food.
I started out growing the usual tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and collards greens; a reminder of my culture and tradition. Once I started growing food I developed a taste for something that I never had experienced in a grocery store. Tomatoes no longer tasted like cardboard. I discovered the juiciness of sunshine tingling throughout my body and I was hooked. I wanted to grow everything, from collards to mangoes, but soon found out I couldn't grow tropical food and the reason why.
As I started growing food in the city, I was becoming more aware of the type of food that was in my neighborhood, and the impact food has on the health and well being of marginalized people. In the Bronx, Congressional District 17, one of the poorest districts in the country, we are surrounded by fast food and junk food stores; in fact they outnumber health food stores, health clinics and hospitals combined.
I hear people call my neighborhood a Food Desert, but it’s not. Call it what it is - hunger and poverty, or what I call it: food apartheid. If you go around my neighborhood we have lots of restaurants, fast food chains and bodegas that sell food, what we don't have are healthy food options. In my community, many of the residents are on fixed income or unemployed. The median income level for a family of four is $21,000 below the poverty line, we have a huge high school dropout rate, as well as a large immigrant population. Many survive on WIC assistance and food pantries.
Today people are growing food in community gardens, urban farms, rooftops, vertical walls, barges, hydroponics, and aquaponics. In NYC city alone we have a 2030 plan that now includes urban Agriculture and food, as an additional one million people are expected to reside in NYC. Cities are now looking at new development to incorporate green roofs and many restaurants are looking at growing food on or near their facility.
We urban farmers cannot grow enough food to feed to feed the millions of people in our cities, but we can promote food sovereignty and grow food that is healthy, and promote ties into our culture and tradition. We can teach kids and families where food truly comes from. We can be the stepping stone for potential rural farmers or the catalyst for value added enterprises.
So together we must change the laws of the land. Let this be our new civil rights movement and reclaim the right to have food that is healthy and safe; the right to have all food labeled; the right to have food that is organically grown, without pesticides or GMOs; the right for our farmers, farm workers, fishermen and restaurant workers to receive a living wage and pay for their work and product. Let’s give tax breaks and incentives to businesses that sell and provide healthy, fresh and local food. Let’s limit the amount of fast food restaurants in low-income neighborhoods. Let’s do away with antiquated laws that prevent people from growing food in cities or on their property. Together, let’s join hands as we reach across the fields to promote a better food system.