CISA supports agricultural pursuits

news_conference_color_ThaoLawrence held the third annual Initiatives in Sustainable Agriculture conference this past weekend, April 5 through 7, in which a number of different events took place. Planned events included keynote speakers, farmer panels, a documentary called “Urban Roots,” a visit to Riverview Gardens, a tour of the Sustainable Lawrence University Gardens (SLUG) and Open Space discussions.

The conference had previously been named Student Initiatives in Sustainable Agriculture (SISA) and focused on student participants and building confidence that sustainable agriculture is a worthwhile pursuit after graduation from college. This year’s conference was open to the surrounding community for the first time, causing the name to be changed to Community Initiatives in Sustainable Agriculture (CISA). Students, restaurant owners, farmers and local adults made up the recorded 120 participants.

Although this attendance number was less than in previous years, SLUG member and a CISA coordinator, senior Hava Blair said, “This is the third rendition of [this conference] and I think this one went the best out of all three.” A contributing factor to the conference’s success, in Blair’s opinion, was the new format of the Open Space discussions.

The “Open Space Technology” or “World Café” format for presenting information was used in the CISA conference for the first time. This set-up allows for collaborative discussion activities instead of several lectures with a passive audience. This way, the people that come to the conference develop the agenda. Blair said of the format: “I think that breadth allowed us to address a lot of new issues that didn’t come up in previous conferences where we had very discrete presentations…it was a much wider range of discussions.”

These discussion topics ranged from growing mushrooms to urban agriculture, and were not restricted to agricultural subjects. Several participants proposed topics of education and even community outreach.

One specific event at the conference was the Introduction to Beekeeping Workshop, a workshop that sophomore Annica Mandeltort helped lead. This workshop included discussion about bees, the different types of bees there are, what they look like, how to find them and then taking a group of participants to Lawrence’s apiary located behind Hiett Hall. On CISA, Mandeltort said, “The conference was great because you got to meet so many people passionate about similar things.”

Another event was the Chefs and Food Entrepreneurs Panel in which the co-founders of Gormet Grassfed, Ben Kramlich and Andrew Sell spoke. Their business focuses specifically on local, organic beef jerky and hopes to connect people with themselves, each other and the planet through real food. A message that Sell really stressed to the audience was that “the only constant in life is change” and explained how if one wants to see a change in community agriculture, that person needs to do something about it. Mandeltort also attended the panel and said that Kramlich and Sell “were really encouraging.”

These events and the numerous others throughout the weekend were all facilitated by members of SLUG. The four coordinators for this year’s conference were Blair, freshman Kate Bellile, junior Brynley Nadziejka and Oren Jacobson ‘12, who is employed at the local, non-profit Riverview Gardens and prompted the partnership with SLUG for the conference. As Blair said, “SLUG is the main driver in putting the conference together.”