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Food Connections: The Conference.

Reconnecting Hands, Mouth & Mind through Food Systems Education
April 20 through 22 - COA Campus

Composting by Julia De SantisView the full schedule here.

What is the full story of food? While today many people are looking into food production and healthy eating, the intermediary activities - of packaging, processing, distribution, sales, consumption, and waste - are seldom investigated. Yet these activities, and how they are controlled, have tremendous impacts on the well-being of entire populations.

From April 20 through 22, College of the Atlantic will be hosting a sustainable foods conference, "Food Connections: Reconnecting Hands, Mouth & Mind through Food Systems Education." The conference will feature discussions on what people need to know to transform food systems, and how these subjects can best be learned.

Molly Anderson by Julia De Santis"While many colleges and universities have farms where students can learn about food production," says Molly Anderson, PhD, COA's Partridge Chair in Food and Sustainable Agriculture Systems, "learning about the rest of the food system is still fragmented and not integrated with surrounding farms or the community where higher education occurs."

The conference begins Friday, April 20 with a local foods reception in the college's Ethel H. Blum Gallery, to celebrate an associated Maine farming photography exhibit, continuing with talks by John Piotti of Maine Farmland Trust, and the executive director of Food First, Eric Holt-Giménez.

His talk is the first keynote of the weekend focusing on food justice, food sovereignty, and how these subjects are treated within our schools and colleges. After a Saturday morning welcome by COA President Darron Collins, MacArthur Fellow Gary Nabhan, author and research scientist at the University of Arizona's Southwest Center, will give a talk titled, "Redesigning Local Food Systems for Land Health, Human Health and Community Economic Health."

Eric Holt GimenezDiscussion leaders will include those who are forging paths in new distribution methods, policies that favor small organic farms, ways of getting more sustainable food to campuses, cultural connections with foodways, and advocacy for food justice and sovereignty. Among the panels is one featuring the storied Chef Stu Comen of Yale University talking with several representatives of campus food teams about what they are doing to improve their institution's food systems. The global perspective on food systems education will be offered by members of the Trans-Atlantic partnership, including Angelika Ploeger of the University of Kassel, Suzanne Morse and Anderson of COA, and Nic Lampkin of the Elm Farm Organic Research Centre and University of Reading, England.

Sunday morning will offer a variety of field trips, including one onto Frenchman Bay with two COA alumni, Natalie Springuel of the Maine Sea Grant Extension, and Toby Stephenson, COA boat captain. They will be speaking about the fisheries of the region, and the connected histories of fishing and farming. Other groups will visit COA's farms and Acadia National Park.

Gary NabhanThere are numerous smaller sessions throughout the day on Saturday. Among the discussions are those on the intersections of farming, fishing, and forestry policies; the current farm bill; sustainability standards and certification; questions about sustainable meat; and the concept of "public goods" which farms provide beyond food, fiber and fuel. Students have additional special events, including a discussion of organizing for social justice in the food system, and an interactive workshop led by COA students who say they have developed "a fun way to discuss consumer choice, conservation, food justice, and sustainable food systems." Additionally, students can join a Real Food Challenge training session Sunday morning.

Discussion leaders include those who are forging paths in new distribution methods, policies that favor small organic farms, ways of getting more sustainable food to campuses, cultural connections with foodways, and advocacy for food justice and sovereignty. Among those present are representatives from the Real Food Challenge, Oxfam's Action Corps and GROW Campaign, and FoodCorps. 

cabbageAmong the other participants are Niaz Dorry of the North Atlantic Marine Alliance, Amanda Beal of the Eat Local Food Coalition, Angelika Ploeger and COA alumnus Dustin Eirdosh of the University of Kassel in Germany, Nic Lampkin and Bruce Pearce of the Organic Research Centre in England, John Piotti of Maine Farmland Trust, and food systems staffers from COA and other colleges and universities. Workshop topics include Intersections between Farming and Fishing Policy, Examining and Improving College Food Systems, Sustainable Consumption through Food and Fish Standards, and Students Organizing for Social Justice in the Food System.

Holt-Giménez, PhD, is the editor of the 2011 Food First book, Food Movements Unite! Strategies to Transform Our Food Systems, and Campesino a Campesino: Voices from Latin America's Farmer to Farmer Movement for Sustainable Agriculture. Nabhan is a nature writer, seed saver, conservation biologist and sustainable agriculture activist. A MacArthur Fellow, he has been called "the father of the local food movement" by Mother Earth News, most recently published Desert Terroir: Exploring the Unique Flavors and Sundry Places of the Borderlands. Signed books from both authors will be on sale after their talks.

In addition to COA, sponsors of the Food Connections conference are Elm Farm Organic Research Centre and the Faculty of Organic Agricultural Sciences at the University of Kassel through our Trans-Atlantic Partnership, with generous funding from the Partridge Foundation.

The conference will be based on the COA campus, at 105 Eden St. in Bar Harbor, ME, with field trips to local farms, including the college's organic Beech Hill Farm and its new Peggy Rockefeller Farms, as well as to Acadia National Park. Registration is $120, or $60 for students with identification. The conference will be held at College of the Atlantic, 105 Eden St., Bar Harbor, ME. For information, visit To register or for information, contact Matthew Doyle Olson, COA Sustainable Food Systems Coordinator, at or 207-801-5688.

College of the Atlantic was founded in 1969 on the premise that education should go beyond understanding the world as it is, to enabling students to actively shape its future. A leader in experiential education and environmental stewardship, COA has pioneered a distinctive interdisciplinary approach to learning—human ecology—that develops the kinds of creative thinkers and doers needed by all sectors of society in addressing the compelling and growing needs of our world. For more, visit

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