Voices of Sustainable Agriculture graphic featuring two speech bubbles and a photo of green onions growing in a hoop house

Voices of Sustainable Agriculture: Speaker Series

September 23, 2021 - Alexander Ball, Patricia Martin, Naim Edwards, <rahrigj1@msu.edu>, <jhodbod@msu.edu>, Lindsay Mensch, <rahrigj1@msu.edu>, and Maria Graziani

What does on-farm sustainability look like? How can farmers implement practices that support their personal, community, and environmental well-being?

In this special virtual speaker series, farmers and other participants learned from farmers, researchers, and educators about healthy soil and water, successful farming practices, seed sovereignty, resilience, and more.

Part I

September 10, 2021

How small farms can use biodiversity and sustainable water management to protect the environment

Presented by Alex Ball, Farmer at Old City Acres

Building an intensive four-season vegetable operation in a wet environment can be a challenge. Alex will share how he overcomes these challenges by mitigating run off, increasing water retention, and using plant biodiversity to manage successful farm business.

Getting to the "root cause" of disease—Why a farmer may be your key to good health

Presented by Patricia Martin of Save Our Soil

Hazardous and other industrial wastes have been disposed in fertilizer and other agricultural products for decades, permeating our soils and contaminating our water supplies. Taken up into crops the toxic contaminants enter our bodies where they can accumulate impacting reproduction, causing cancer, birth defects and disproportionately impacting our children. If we want healthy food, we need toxic-free fertilizers.

Part II

October 22, 2021

Healing Land and Communities with Edible Landscapes

Presented by Naim Edwards, Director of the MSU-Detroit Partnership for Food, Learning and Innovation 

Large-scale production of annual crops has concentrated control of the food production into a small portion of the population and contributed to environmental degradation. The negative effects of this paradigm can be countered by integrating perennial fruits and nuts more intentionally into the land scape. Perennial crops require minimal soil disturbance, produce more food per plant over time, and create conditions for additional social, economic, and environmental benefits.

Building Regional Seed Resilience

Presented by Shiloh Maples, Anishinaabe educator, community organizer, and seed keeper

Seed sovereignty and resilience are essential parts of any healthy, vibrant agricultural system. That is part of the reason why the Indigenous Seed Keepers Network, a program of the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance, is working to revitalize and protect culturally significant seed varieties. This session will give an overview of the strategies and tools being used by this inter-tribal, grassroots network to build a regional seed growers cooperative.

Wellbeing on the farm – an integrated approach to ensuring sustainability and resilience

Presented by Jenny Hodbod, Assistant Professor in the MSU Department of Community Sustainability

While there is increasing focus on the environmental sustainability of our farms, we often miss the connection between making sure that sustainable management practices also support happy, healthy, and profitable farms. Dr. Hodbod will outline how her research in Michigan is integrating environmental, social, and economic wellbeing measures to look at rural wellbeing in a holistic manner, and how that leads to farms that are sustainable and resilient.

Speaker Bios

Alex Ball is the owner and manager of Old City Acres, a no-till vegetable farm in Sumpter, Michigan focusing primarily on providing ecologically grown vegetables to CSA members 12 months out of the year.

Patricia “Patty” Martin is a former mayor of Quincy, WA -- a small agricultural town located in central Washington State—who together with a handful of local farmers exposed the use of hazardous and other industrial wastes as fertilizer. The 1997 Seattle Times’ investigative series “Fear in the Fields: How Hazardous Waste Becomes Fertilizer” and the book “Fateful Harvest, the True Story of a Small Town, a Global Industry, and a Toxic Secret” (Harper Collins, 2001) chronicle the fight of the farmers and mayor as they stood up to industry pressure to keep the practice from the public.

When the EPA expanded the practice to include all zinc containing hazardous waste provided it meets an inadequate standard for safety, Safe Food and Fertilizer challenged the rule in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Unfortunately, the Court sided with EPA.

Patty co-founded Safe Food and Fertilizer (now Save Our Soil) that is a project of Earth Island Institute. She is a graduate of Gonzaga University with a B.S. in Biology, and the proud mother of four adult children.

Naim Edwards directs the MSU - Detroit Partnership for Food, Learning and Innovation, one of the nation's first urban agriculture centers. His work seeks to connect people more deeply to nature through food production and land management. Naim holds science degrees from Morehouse College and the University of Michigan, and he volunteered with the Peace Corps in Ecuador for sustainable agriculture and natural resource conservation projects.

Shiloh Maples is an Anishinaabe educator, community organizer, and seed keeper. Shiloh has a Masters in Social Work from the University of Michigan, where she specialized in community organizing. She has also completed certificate programs in organic farming and sustainable community design. During her time as a student, Shiloh recognized the powerful potential of food systems to heal and transform both individuals and communities. Since then, Shiloh has been committed to serving food sovereignty movements, revitalizing ancestral foodways, and Indigenous community planning. Shiloh aspires to support the sovereignty of Indigenous communities, build our collective capacity, and work collaboratively in a spirit of solidarity. In her practice, Shiloh works in partnership with community members and local leaders from around the Great Lakes to work towards a more sustainable and equitable food system.

Dr. Jenny Hodbod is an environmental social scientist researching social-ecological resilience in food systems. Currently she is leading community-engaged work in Michigan exploring how to simultaneously boost rural wellbeing and resilience, with a focus on conduits and barriers to adoption of sustainable agricultural management strategies.

This speaker series is brought to you by the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems and Michigan Good Food Fund with funding from Leaf Jerky and Kellogg’s.




Accessibility Questions:

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