PASA conference, Feb. 2-5, salutes farmer-leaders, has ‘food’ mantra


MILLHEIM, Pa. — Conference-goers can expect a change this year at the closing plenary session of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture’s (PASA) annual Farming for the Future Conference.

Instead of the traditional keynote address, the association will introduce the PASA-bilities Leadership Award Series, featuring speeches by award winners within the organization’s membership.

The 20th annual event will be held Feb. 2-5 at the Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel in State College, Pa.

The PASA-bilities Leadership Award Series will take place at 3 p.m. Feb. 5.

Experts among us

“After every conference, we get the same feedback from participants: ‘We want to hear from the experts who are sitting here with us, members and close friends of PASA,'” said Brian Snyder, the association’s executive director.

“It’s true — the PASA community is filled with leaders in sustainable agriculture. We’ve been giving these awards all along, but this year, we’re bringing them into the spotlight.”


This year’s Sustainable Ag Leadership Award winners, Klaas and Mary-Howell Martens of Lakeview Organic Grain, planted their first organic crop in 1992 (the year of PASA’s first conference), a single field of wheat.

Today, they farm nearly 1,400 acres of organic corn, soybeans, spelt, wheat, barley, oats, triticale, red kidney beans and hay in addition to operating a successful seed and feed business.

“We do what we love to do,” said Mary-Howell Martens, who noted the importance of building lasting relationships in their work.

Writing in PASA’s newsletter Passages in 2008, the Martens describe an early encounter with sustainable farming when talking with a group of organic farmers near Pittsburgh: “The concept really caught our imagination because creating balanced cooperative partnerships between farms and buyers, based on mutual respect, made so much sense, long before the term ‘locavore’ became popular.”

Natural by Nature. Ned MacArthur, with his well-known brand Natural by Nature, is this year’s winner of the Sustainable Ag Business Leader Award.

In 1994, MacArthur founded Natural Dairy Products Corporation with his father and four organic dairy farmers in Lancaster County, Pa., and established a system to produce grass-fed organic milk independent of the conventional, volume-based milk industry.

“It’s the biggest honor I’ve ever gotten,” said MacArthur of the award. “I think that the whole idea of getting this award is a reflection on the people who help me run the company, and my family. And the farmers — the farmers and I have stuck together through thick and thin.”


Conference registration is required to attend the closing session. Preregistration closes Jan. 28; those registering after that date may do so at the conference center. One-day registration is $165 for nonmembers; two-day, $230. For members, the two-day rate is $130; one-day rate, $115. There are different rates for students, FFA members and for the pre-conference tracks. A $30 walk-in fee will be added to onsite registrations.

To learn more about the Farming for the Future Conference, visit or call 814-349-9856.

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