Director’s Blog – 2014 End of Year Note
December 27, 2014
Dear Friends of Michael Fields Agricultural Institute,
As I reflect on the past 30 years, I am moved to think about all the lives that have been touched by the efforts, the passion and the movement of the Institute. I must imagine thousands, directly and indirectly have been inspired, swayed off their original path, moved to rethink something, taught someone else something they learned, or have grown or eaten healthier, sustainably produced food. Since inception, the Institute has had an unwavering goal for total health from the ground up.
National and International Sustainable Agriculture Leader and former MFAI Board Member Fred Kirschenmann reminded us this past September, at our 30th Anniversary Celebration, that agriculture has been around for only a brief time of our planet’s history. Agriculture began organic; however corporate agribusiness practices, at the very least try to devalue those beginning healthy farm systems, at the worst contribute to environmental destruction, the most pressing challenges of this century.
MFAI has been at the forefront of the sustainable agriculture movement for 30 years – through education, research and advocating for the people who take care of our land. Agriculture works in harmony with the natural environment in a healthy farm system. Our research department is evaluating different farming practices, and documenting and sharing the best practice findings. Soil health is a main focus of the research being done. Soil is itself an ecosystem of billions of organisms, organic matter, insects, minerals and nutrients. Mahatma Gandhi reminds us “To forget how to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.”
Exciting research findings have been released this year from around the world, like: Organic farming practices can sequester a majority of greenhouse gas emissions. On a global scale this could help reverse climate change. Also, science confirms organically produced food is healthier. Of course it is – organic is the way food is meant to be. These are things MFAI’s founders knew and those of us in the sustainable movement know, it is imperative others are learning the importance of enhancing natural resources and environmental protection as we simultaneously produce profitable, healthy food. The better educated we are as a society, the better choices we can make for ourselves and for future generations. More good news is Wisconsin boasts the second largest number of organic farm acres in the U.S., second only to California. California and Wisconsin are also #1 and #2 for the number of farms transitioning to organic.
To help with this emerging understanding of land use, MFAI is offering Consulting Services to transition land to organic practices. Our international and national interns, who come to us for seven months, are taught only organic and biodynamic practices. In addition we are adding educational workshops for not only farmers and growers, but for those in search of a better understanding of the issues involved.
Little Green Thumbs, our children’s educational program is expanding in 2015 also, to include Little Land Stewards, a summer camp for elementary age children. We believe knowledgeable, caring and thoughtful stewards of the land make for a beautiful future.
Our Policy Program worked hard protecting many valuable provisions in the 2014 farm bill, including new programs for beginning farmers and conservation programs; and we helped create an effective grassroots campaign to optimize funding for several priority federal programs in 2015. Our policy work helped to increase sign-ups for the Conservation Stewardship Protection program in Wisconsin. We wrote and distributed the Federal Funding Guide, conducted grant writing workshops around Wisconsin and launched the City Exchange Project, where people in communities share experiences nationwide in fostering community and regional food systems.
2015’s Policy Program will focus on actively engaging in Wisconsin’s budget process to advance funding for Wisconsin’s Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin, the Farm to School program, and for county conservation. Our efforts will also co-convene the Re-thinking Nutrient Management group to make recommendations to develop a coherent and effective framework to manage agricultural nutrients.
At Michael Fields, we envision an ever-creative cultural process in which farmers and consumers create agricultural landscapes with healthy regional systems of land use, food production and distribution. Please consider a tax deductible gift this year to support Michael Fields work for enduring sustainability of our most important resources and basic rights– healthy soil, biodiversity, wildlife habitats, groundwater, and food sovereignty and security, health and wellness.
All of us here are hard at work in the sustainability movement and are deeply grateful for your support.
Wishing you a warm and inspiring season,
Michael Fields Agricultural Institute