More than 40 local farmers attended this year’s Farmer’s Forum!
Hosted by the Bucks County Foodshed Alliance on March 2, 2022 at the Heritage Conservancy’s Aldie Mansion in Doylestown. The event featured Sam Malriat of the internationally renowned Rodale Institute and a panel of local farmers who shared how they are successfully implementing regenerative practices on their land. After which, everyone (including many political leaders and heads of conservancy organizations) broke into smaller discussion groups to brainstorm potential solutions to our local food system’s most pressing challenges.
The featured speaker was Sam Malriat, the Director of Organic Consulting at Rodale, which is based in nearby Kutztown. Lucky us! Malriat presented opportunities for farmers to transition towards more regenerative practices based on Rodale’s extensive research. Over 40 years of field trials has demonstrated that in comparison to conventional farming, organic production increases soil health as well as overall resilience during drought, flooding and temperature volatility of climate change. Organic practices also increase net income for farmers with a higher market value but also lower crop loss and less need for expensive inputs. He shared specifics around the realities of organic certification and different no-till techniques as well as letting the farmers know that Rodale provides free consultations to farmers considering transitioning from conventional to organic production as well as assisting farmers who are already growing organically to improve their production. Malriat’s presentation set the stage for an afternoon of lively discussion.
During the break attendees chatted and enjoyed homemade treats featuring Castle Valley Mills’ freshly milled flour, Anchor Run Farm’s eggs, Solebury Orchards’ fruits and The Coffee Scoop’s locally roasted, organic coffee. The break was followed by a panel featuring local farmers who have successfully transitioned from conventional to regenerative farming. Henry and Charlotte Rosenberger shared their family’s success story of developing Tussock Sedge in the heart of Blooming Glen (a 100% grass fed beef operation that now grazes hogs and chickens too). Also operating on the Rosenberger preserved farm, is the organic certified Blooming Glen Farm that is run by Trish Borneman and Tom Murtha. Marcie Botteger and Michael Conner of Sarahsway Farm in Gilbertsville shared their story of working with Rodale to transition their 280+ acre farm to organic. And a special thanks to Teddy Moynihan of Plowshare Farms who rounded out the panel by sharing his experience of establishing a family farm in Pipersville with a regenerative approach from day one.
Following the panel, participants gathered in small groups to discuss their most pressing challenges and concerns. They then reported to share and collect ideas for solutions as an entire group. Some key topics were finding/developing farm labor force (as well as training and housing for them), access to financing for small farms, farm cooperatives (for sharing equipment as well as reducing the cost of legal support, marketing, training, health insurance, whole farm design, etc.), developing new markets for farm products, and local meat processing services (especially USDA organic). Many political leaders were on hand listening to farmers’ concerns and working to learn how they could support the local farming economy better. Bucks County Commissioners Marseglia and Harvie as well as representatives from the offices of Congressman Fitzpatrick and State Senator Santarsiero attended. Labor issues are a primary, ongoing great concern and Commissioner Harvie noted some ways the County may be able to assist with some of the training that farmers are in need of.
A special thanks to the Heritage Conservancy for providing such a beautiful venue for this event! We are so lucky to live in Bucks County, where organizations like the Heritage Conservancy and Rodale Institute are providing services and support to our amazing local farmers. Bucks County landscapes are healthier and our local food system is abundant because of all of you!