HUDSON, NY — Farmer and Author, Shannon Hayes aptly engaged the belief that a strong community is built around local farmers, food and the stewardship of the land. On Nov. 4, the Agrarian Learning Center celebrated this sentiment by hosting a farm to table dinner and global event titled: “Eat It, Wear It, Regenerate It, Igniting a Consumer Revolution.” The result — world-wide connection with like-minded farmers, communities and consumers.
Many have come to know dairy farmers, Paul and Phyllis VanAmburgh of Dharma Lea Farm in Sharon Springs, NY; and Claudia Kenny and Willy Denner of Little Seed Gardens Farm in the Hudson Valley as the passionate leaders of the center. It is one of 20 independent, global Savory Institute Accredited Hubs serving the Northeast region of the U.S. Their work is based on the methods and practices of Alan Savory’s Holistic Management decision making framework devoted to restoring the world’s grasslands, reversing desertification, and bringing food and water security around the globe by training farmers in regenerative land and financial management while empowering local communities.
The evening was part knowledge, part celebration, part networking and 100 percent inspiration as speakers, farmers, consumers and friends learned what, accredited Savory Professional and Hub Founder, Phyllis VanAmburgh meant by “Tying our wealth to our ecology” and “Finding the threads that hold us together.”
Seth Itzkan, Co-founder of the nonprofit, Soil4Climate and internationally recognized leader in the movement to embrace soil as a climate solution set the stage by stating how holistically managed grasslands and biologically robust soil curb greenhouse gases. “I’m fully engrossed in planned grazing to mitigate climate change. I’ve seen the successes all over the world by land practitioners. The key to adoption is in the markets when consumers support grass-based holistically applied businesses and practices. When you purchase, you save soil and end global warming,” said Itzkan.
Radical homemaker, author, farmer and newly acclaimed barista, Shannon Hayes, soothed guests in a touching “Story of Local” about her subsistent farming neighbors, Sanford and Ruth on how they influenced their West Fulton community with pies and weaving a good story. Hayes raised the folly of the “Feed the world” mantra and how diversity before the green revolution was the key to a family farm’s success. “The movement now is once again celebrating local and the relationships with farmers. The story of local has better flavor, preserves genetic legacy, supports local economies, protects ‘viewsheds’ and contributes to the tax base,” exclaimed Hayes.
Licensed Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Author and “Sustainable Dish” Blogger, Diana Rodgers shed new light on the benefits and dietary guidelines of 100-percent grass-fed animal protein sources and her struggles with loving beef and being kind to the planet. “I was being challenged that to love the planet you needed to move away from meat. The science doesn’t support such an accusation when you look at the holistic view of raising animals on properly managed pastures. If you’re looking for the most bioavailable source of protein, that doesn’t compete with humans for food and can actually help sequester carbon, consider eating more pasture-based herbivores like cattle, bison, goats, and sheep,” said Rodgers.
Throughout the event, four movies from the Savory Global Network highlighting grass-fed dairy production, meat, wool and artisanal leather businesses were premiered and skyped around the world beginning with the poignant words from Allan Savory, “That management needs to be holistic.”
A spectacular feast celebrating the synergy of farmers and consumers working together featured fare from Little Seed Gardens, Maple Hill Creamery, Cayuga Organics, and Wild Hive farm. The menu items were artfully prepared by the Chef’s Consortium, a New York based group made up of professional chefs, artisans, bakers, food writers and friends who have a passion for food.
“Our first year was really very inspiring, said the Van Amburghs. It is such a thrill and motivator to be connected with other folks in a common effort. Here at home, and particularly with the 100-percent grass farmers of Maple Hill Creamery, along with other farmers of our region raising beef, organic and conventional dairy and veggies, the reception has been very heartening. We are looking forward to nurturing these relationships and improve the ecological wealth, (the true wealth) of our entire region.”
What does it mean to be part of a global initiative?
“The Savory Global Network is perhaps the thing that drives our efforts of the Hub most strongly. People around the world share the same struggles, have the same needs, and need help from their community. There is one constant that holds us all together, and that is that “all wealth comes from the sun shining on green plants growing on regenerating soils” (Allan Savory). People just like us are working to regenerate the soils, strengthen their communities, improve their water, and provide nourishing food around the world. To know this, and to know these people, and to gather with them each year to strengthen our efforts is truly amazing work,” emphasized Phyllis Van Amburgh.
Maple Hill Creamery is confident that consumers are supportive of this mission and as a company, is investing in its farmers to manage holistically, which adds intrinsic value in the supply chain. “For the consumers of Maple Hill Creamery products, I think that the exceptional taste and nutritional qualities of the 100-percent organic grass-fed products are first on their list, however they are a very savvy bunch, and they certainly care very much about the ‘other’ qualities of the yogurt, kefir, and cheeses. The people that buy Maple Hill Creamery products ask a lot of questions, and want to know the truth behind the farms that supply the milk,” said founder, Tim Joseph.
“They want to know the details of better grazing practices, happier farmers, and healthy cows. They have proven that they are willing to pay for those things because they are very loyal to Maple Hill Creamery. One-hundred percent grass-fed dairy requires expert practice of regenerative agriculture, and managing holistically is the best method for achieving success. Maple Hill Creamery has recognized this and we are thrilled that they have been working with us very closely on all fronts to make this a win for farmers, a win for consumers and a win for our planet,” exclaimed Phyllis.
What challenges still lie ahead for The Agrarian Learning Center? “Time has been our greatest challenge. We are still a working dairy farm, and have five school age kids. Care of the next generation comes first, of course,” said Paul and Phyllis.
“We are getting help with some of the management of the Hub, but this still requires training and familiarity. Our farm and the implementation of Holistic Management on it are the key to the Hub’s success so even with help, it requires our close involvement. The other challenges, such as limited reach to connect with people, are only a function of being at the beginning still, and will get better with time. We want to make a difference to heal our planet and ourselves, so we take the hurdles in stride and just get to work”.
To learn more visit www.agrarianlearningcenter.com