PITTSFIELD, Pa. — Sustainable Ag Day in Warren County received high marks by the day’s participants. People came to learn and the speakers did not disappoint them.
One participant told others who asked about the day, “This is one that you should not have missed. There was something new for everyone.”
Laura Agnew from the Natural Resources Conservation Service welcomed producers from around the area to a day focusing on the sustainability of agriculture.
The morning session featured Parker Bosley, founder of Parker’s New American Bistro in Cleveland.
Bosley was a co-owner in the business until his retirement at the end of 2006. As a chef and local foods advocate, he practiced what he preached for more than 20 years.
Growing up on a dairy farm in Trumbull County, Ohio, he believes local, small-scale farming can flourish if farmers focus on the growing consumer base that is seeking quality food available only directly from producers.
In his mind, “Grass production has become as important to the consumer as organic production once was.”
Bosley provided a food history that addressed the sameness of the food offered by restaurants. No matter where you travel, the food offerings are the same.
The restaurant chains have perpetuated this.
How did we get there?
“A trip to France revealed a refreshing concept,” said Bosley. “In France, people put activities aside while they eat. The process of eating is worthy of its own time.”
Think about it, he said. How do you consume your meals at home? Do you eat in front of the television? Do you eat at your desk at work?
Do you eat while reading your favorite magazine? Eating is something that is done along with something else. The fine art of conversation during dining is gone, he said. The art of enjoying the food is not the prime purpose.
“What we eat, how we eat and where we eat and with whom we eat describes our values,” said Bosley.
At the table, we should be thinking of where the food came from, how it got to the table and the seasons of the region. Food should not have to be imported. People should be enjoying what is available at the time.
“What we eat, how we eat and where we eat and with whom we eat describes our values.”
Parker Bosley, Parker’s New American Bistro founder
Bosley pointed out that in the food history before 1945, only 25 percent of the beef on the market came from feed lots. People ate what they grew. Food was based on their ethnic background. Food was the reward, as well as the sustenance. Food was a celebration.
By 1947, Bosley told the audience, new technology entered the food sector. Industrial ag emerged. The use of technology became a measure of affluence.
Today, consumers seek quality food. They are going back to farmers who produce the food locally. The market is ripe for this type of niche production. People want to put a face on their food. They want to know how it is produced as well as who is producing it.
“Evil flourishes when good men do nothing,” said Bosley. “We need mass marketing to consume all that is produced with modern technological advances.”
Does that mean the food produced is of good quality? It does not. Technology does not make the food better, simply more plentiful, he said. The farmer is still the expert when it comes to food production.
“There is a waiting audience to buy food from the local farm. Local producers need to continue to grow quality fresh food and make it available through creative marketing ventures.
While spending time at the local farm market weekly may not be feasible, cooperating with another farmer to man the booth may be beneficial,” he said.
Bosley told the audience that the farm bill has, in the past, been dictated by large industrial producers.
“The next one just may be the food bill,” he said.
He recommended educating consumers. Once they know how good fresh food can taste and how good it is for them, they are hooked.
Bosley summed up his presentation saying, “Pay more, eat less. Cook your own food. Eat meals at tables. Eat deliberately and with pleasure.”
A local foods lunch was served featuring products of area farms. Meldick Farms, Stoney Creek Farm, Lazy J Bison and Sweet and Savory Farm provided the meats. Angove’s Farm and Bauer Family Syrup provided maple syrup. Tara’s Tasty Treats provided homemade rolls.
Phyllis Wright contributed cabbage and apple salad made from ingredients purchased from nearby farms. Penn Sate Creamery provided ice cream. The Shaw House was responsible for the catering.
The afternoon session featured veterinarian Susan Beal, a graduate of the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. Beal runs Big Run Healing Arts, a practice dedicated to providing care based on the philosophy and practice of homeopathy.
She addressed the appropriateness of animal diet in the overall health of the animal.