SLUG attends agriculture conference

David Rubin

The keepers of the Sustainable Lawrence University Garden do many a favor to the general student population.
In fall term, they provided us with responsibly grown local produce. You may have consumed a “SLUG tomato” in one of those Bon Appétit “composed salads.” Or perhaps you saw it on sale at the convenience store.
And for those who remember, SLUG produce – generally zucchini – always graced the last few feet of A Line at Downer Commons, a proud prelude to the desserts and the hot cocoa machine.
In winter term, the ghost of the garden saves many a life, as students on sleds fly off of Union Hill into that friendly SLUG compost heap, instead of landing – and possibly drowning – in the murky depths of the Fox River.
In all seriousness, however, it is important to know that the students responsible for SLUG are at work year-round, and not just when planting and harvesting.
Jan. 21 and 22, SLUG members Stacey Day, Sonia Emmons, Oren Jakobson, Sophie Patterson, Annie Raccuglia, and Laura Streyle attended a major agricultural conference in Eau Claire, Wis.
This event, officially titled the “Twelfth Annual Midwest Value Added Agricultural Conference and Fourth Annual Wisconsin Local Food Summit,” featured two days of keynote speakers, breakout sessions, workshops and a trade show, all focused on sustainable agriculture.
An estimated 200 people were in attendance, including small farmers and students from Wisconsin universities.
Lawrence, along with University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, was featured in a breakout session about student-run sustainable initiatives.
Senior Oren Jakobson and junior Laura Streyle represented the school with a 15-minute presentation about SLUG’s history and mission.
There were many other sessions, covering a wide variety of topics. One session, called “Policy 101,” primed farmers and students about how to navigate government institutions and press for sustainable causes.
Another focused on techniques for drying fruit, while still others covered “diversification for greater sustainability,” composting for small farms, and “farm-to-school” local sourcing.
In addition to the breakout sessions, Lawrence students attended a documentary film screening, and a trade show featuring vendors like Organic Valley and organizations like MOSES, the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service.
The Value Added conference was headlined by three keynote speakers, several of whom have Lawrence connections.
Will Allen, the CEO of Growing Power, Inc., reiterated some of the issues he raised to the Lawrence community last spring when he appeared on campus courtesy of the Green Roots Initiative.
Author and humorist Michael Perry gave an address titled “Never Stand Behind a Sneezing Cow.” Perry, it turns out, is a friend of and frequent collaborator with Lawrence’s own John Shimon and Julie Lindemann, professors of art.
Finally, dietician and investigative nutritionist Melinda Hemmelgarn spoke on “Feast or Famine, a Fork in the Road.”
Between the keynote addresses, the trade show, the film screening, the breakout sessions, and the valuable time spent networking with like-minded farmers and students, the members of SLUG gained lots of new information and ideas for future projects.
Said Streyle: “It was empowering … and delicious!