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WSU Presents Public Forum on Future Directions in Sustainable Food Systems, Oct. 22 in Mount Vernon and Pullman

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. – Agricultural experts will present ideas about future directions in sustainable food production systems on Friday, Oct. 22. The forum brings together experts from around the United States with local researchers, students and the general public to discuss if “local” and “organic” are comprehensive approaches to agricultural sustainability.

“When we were thinking about organizing this, a couple themes popped up, like the fact that sustainability in agriculture is much more complicated than just saying ‘local is good,’” said crop science graduate student Lucas Patzek. Patzek is one of a group of students based at the WSU Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center in Mount Vernon who are organizing the forum.

The forum consists of two panels, one in Mount Vernon and the other in Pullman, interacting via a live video conferencing feed. “We’re inviting the general public, farmers and students on both sides of the state to participate in the forum,” Patzek said.

The Mount Vernon forum will be held at the WSU NWREC, 16650 State Route 536. The Pullman forum will be on the WSU campus in Room 101 of the Food Sciences and Human Nutrition building.

The forum features food-system scholars and innovators, including:

  • Jack Kloppenburg, professor and rural sociologist, University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • Diane Dempster, president, Tilth Producers of Washington
  • Branden Born, assistant professor of urban design and planning, University of Washington
  • Jessica Goldberger, assistant professor of agricultural and food systems, Washington State University, Pullman
  • Tom Kammerzell, Maple K Farms, Colfax, Wash.
  • Scot Hulbert, professor and scientist, cropping systems, Washington State University, Pullman

“We plan to engage with a number of issues,” said Patzek. “For instance, how do we define ‘local’? There is no singular definition, and there are studies that show that people define local differently depending on their experience. The concept of ‘organic’ is not well understood, either, as many people think that means no chemicals are used in production – but that’s simply not the case. Organic farmers use different chemicals than conventional producers and, in terms of sustainability, we want to get a grasp on ways to reduce those inputs.”

Patzek said other topics on the table for discussion at the forum include issues of social justice, food security and diversity of growing environments, all of which greatly complexify the seemingly simple choice to “buy local,” he said.

The forum, which is free and open to the general public, begins with a reception at 6:30, in room 101 of the Food Science and Human Nutrition building. The forum agenda is as follows:

  • 6:30 – 7 p.m. – Reception at both locations
  • 7 – 8:30 p.m.– Live broadcast from WSU Northwest Washington Research and Extension Center in Mount Vernon
  • 8:30 – 9 p.m. – Local panel: Sustainability on the Palouse


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