SUBMITTED — On Friday, Dec. 6 and Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, the Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network (ASAN) will host its annual Food & Farm Forum and Youth Food & Farm Forum. These events, which run concurrently, are a statewide gathering described as “part conference, part retreat.”
They consist of peer-to-peer and hands-on learning in the form of workshops, panel discussions, and breakout conversations, on topics related to sustainable farming, local food systems, green living, and more. Thursday December 5, ASAN will offer several bonus sessions including field trips to local sites.
This year ASAN is building the Forum program by putting out a call for session proposals. Farmers, market managers, business owners, activists, and other members of the public are invited to submit ideas for possible sessions, which will be reviewed by a committee.
Topic areas for sessions include (1) Farming (beginner level), (2) Farming (advanced level), (3) Farm business / marketing, (4) Community food systems and food movement, and (5) Green living.
Examples of sessions at past Forums include:
• Sustainable Woodland Management for Small Farms and Landowners
• Growing a New Market with Microgreens
• On-Farm Processing of Poultry and Rabbits (panel)
• Cooperative Farm Marketing
• Carpentry Life Skills
• Putting Solar to Work on the Farm Using Passive Solar Structures and Off-Grid Solar Photovoltaic
• Fermentation 101
• Introduction to Herbal Tincturing
Sessions can be hands-on demonstrations, panel discussions, facilitated roundtable discussions (ie including audience members), storytelling, and/or traditional presentations. Sessions may be led by youth (14-21) and/or adults.
The proposal form states that, while traditional presentations from traditional experts are welcome, ASAN “value[s] and uplift[s] folk wisdom, practical skills, intuition, emotional intelligence, embodied knowledge, traditional ecological knowledge, creative arts, and other forms of knowing.”
Priority will be given to sessions that reflect:
* Skill-building across cultures, communities, and sectors/roles in the food system
* Collaboration, cooperation, and network-building
* Diversity of presenters and perspectives
* Grounding in racial, social and economic equity/justice and authentic community-building
More details and the form to submit a proposal, are available at https://forms.gle/ks8oDKxhZXS582va6. The deadline to submit a session proposal is Monday, June 17, 2019. All session leaders (and co-leaders) receive free registration to the event.
Programs are available for the 2017 Food & Farm Forum, 2018 Food & Farm Forum (adult), and 2018 Youth Food & Farm Forum, to give potential applicants a sense for the full breadth and depth of sessions appropriate for the event.
MORE ABOUT THE FORUM
Approximately 200 farmers, gardeners, community leaders, young people, and other advocates for local and sustainable food, will convene for a weekend of “cross-pollinating” – swapping stories, ideas, and wisdom, with the shared goal of building a more robust and resilient agricultural system in Alabama. The Forum is designed to welcome people of all levels of skill and experience, and participants need not be existing members of ASAN’s network.
“We as an organization are built on this idea that, together we already have all we need in order to build the healthier, more resilient communities that we want,” says Alice Evans, ASAN’s Executive Director. “The knowledge is there, the resources are there, the willpower is there. It’s about cultivating spaces to wake that power up, to bond folks to one another, to spark and share those ideas and assemble the resources needed to realize them.”
In 2018 alongside the adult Food & Farm Forum, ASAN held a Youth Food & Farm Forum for the first time, geared towards youth ages 14-21. The 2019 Youth Forum will be organized by a council of eight youth from across the state, along with ASAN’s Youth Forum Coordinator.
In 2019, there will be blocks of concurrent sessions where the youth and adults are all blended together — some sessions will be adult-led, some youth-led, and anyone can attend any session. There will also be portions of the event where the youth will gather for youth-only activities. Meals and social activities will take place with youth and adults together.
The Youth Forum concept came together, Evans says, “Both because we want to empower and inspire young folks from throughout Alabama to cultivate interest in agriculture and food systems, and we want to create space within our organization where youth are heard, valued, meaningfully involved, and encouraged to take up leadership. The agricultural system we’re building must be intergenerational.”
MORE ABOUT ASAN
The Forum is an anchor event of the year-round work of the Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network (or ASAN), which is a grassroots network of producers and supporters of locally, ecologically, and ethically raised food from throughout Alabama. ASAN’s mission is to deepen relationships between the people of Alabama, the food we eat, and the place we live. Through training events, field days, scholarship programs, publications, and a community support network, ASAN helps existing farmers and markets to thrive, while also helping new ones to sprout, take root, and grow. More about ASAN at www.asanonline.org.
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