Trellis recently attended the 10th-annual Farm to Table Conference on March 18th - 19th at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Downtown Pittsburgh. Farm to Table Pittsburgh is the local food & healthy eating component of Pathways to SmartCare Wellness Program. They provide local food programs for schools, employers, senior residencies and community groups.
The weekend-long conference featured more than 150 vendors, educational cooking and gardening demonstrations, health and wellness talks, children’s activities, and local food & spirit tastings, which we thoroughly enjoyed. We had the great opportunity to promote our growing business in the event program, which you can check out here, and network with various individuals in our community. The FTT conference not only exposed us to great food and people, but innovative ideas, which we are excited to implement in our daily work supporting local agriculture and ecological development.
Upon arriving, we were faced with many tough decisions about which events to attend. Although we wanted to attend every seminar, we couldn’t be everywhere at once! The seminars ranged anywhere from a talk about growing shiitake mushrooms with Rusty Orner from Quiet Creek Herb Farm to a presentation by Jessy Swisher of Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) about 1Local, a new tool helping food businesses assess their current local-food impact, communicate impact to consumers who are committed to strengthening their local food system, and identify ways to improve their local efforts.
The exhibit hall was filled with knowledgeable people who understand local food and eager to share their knowledge with anyone who was interested. One of the exhibitors was 412 Food Rescue, which works with retailers, wholesalers, restaurants, caterers, universities and other providers to “rescue” unsellable, but edible, food with the intent of delivering to those who can use it. Their presence at the conference was a reminder that where our food goes can be just as important as where it comes from.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs were also featured at the conference. Simply put, a CSA is an arrangement where participants pay an upfront fee at the beginning of the season and get a share of whatever is harvested that week, even during the winter months. In recent weeks, you might have found lettuce, kale, apples, onions, garlic, honey, maple syrup, eggs, cheese, salsa, and apple cider in your CSA box. Through direct sales to community members, which provides the farmer with working capital in advance, growers receive better prices for their crops, gain financial security, and are less concerned about marketing their goods. CSA availability in the Pittsburgh region is reaching an all time high, which in turn has required CSAs to be innovative in their growing practices. Fellowship Foods, for example, adopted a la carte and subscription models, which allows participants to pay as they go or for periods of time. To find a local CSA with a drop point or a delivery route in your region, check out Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture’s CSA Guide for Western Pennsylvania here.
We already can’t wait to attend next year’s conference! Fortunately for those of us passionate about local agriculture and sustainability, we don’t have to wait an entire year for the next great event! FTT Pittsburgh hosts several lunch & learns, cooking demonstrations, and workshops throughout the year. They also host a children-focused event series called Little Locavores! Most events are free and take place throughout the Pittsburgh region. You can find the list of events on their blog. We will leave you with this -- Keep it Real. Keep it Local.