Student Initiatives in Sustainable Agriculture held their national conference at Lawrence last weekend, March 31 through April 1. Students from colleges and universities across the country attended the conference, which was held to promote sustainable agriculture projects both during and after their college years.
As their website details, SISA was developed in response to the problem of the “aging population of farmers” in America. In an attempt to combat this issue, SISA has conducted two conferences, both of which have taken place at Lawrence. The first, held in 2011, fostered relations between students from 30 universities in seven different states, and due to its success, the 2012 conference drew a larger group of students from a geographically broader range.
The main goals of these conferences are to prepare and encourage young people in the field of sustainable agriculture and to teach them the skills they need to be a part of a new generation of sustainable farmers. The itinerary of this past weekend sought to create a venue where such ideas and projects could be discussed.
Among the most successful aspects were the four workshops on grant writing, beekeeping, composting and the building of a hoophouse, all of which earned positive feedback from participants. In addition, the program included a keynote address by agricultural economist John Ikerd, presentations by farmers and students, viewings of documentary films and live music provided by Lawrence’s Love Constellation and the Stars.
Lawrence junior Hava Blair, a conference organizer, was able to comment on her personal ambitions for the 2012 conference. “I wanted SISA to be a great time,” she says. “All of the organizers of the conference are passionate about sustainable agriculture and about the role that young people can play in changing our food system. In addition, our goal was to have fantastic social events and networking for young farmers and to-be farmers.”
One of the future goals of SISA is to go beyond the scope of the university student, and begin to get young people everywhere involved. Their hope is to show young people, whether they are university students or not, their vision of the bright future of the production of food in America. “We want young people to see the potential they have to make change in the food system,” Blair explained.
Though there is no set date for a conference next year, Blair promised that the campus will remain updated. She expressed enthusiasm for the progress SISA has made. “Everything flowed very smoothly this year,” she said, “I’d say that we are just getting better!”
She is also confident that SISA’s work is just beginning. Though the future of the SISA conference is still being discussed, Blair maintained that “it’s not over, and the events will only get better.”