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Southern SAWG Newsletter  Volume 5, #12
  December 2009
Dear Friends,
Winter is on the way, but it's no time to hibernate. This is a busy time of year, with holiday and end-of-year activities, and for the Southern SAWG team, entering the home stretch towards the conference.
As we begin this sometimes hectic month, we want to take a few minutes to reflect on the power and strength of the sustainable farming and food community that we are all a part of. This movement has certainly grown and matured, and it continues to reach out and welcome younger hands and older converts. Accustomed to finding our way through the twists and turns of tough economics, along with the challenges and gifts of the elements, we are now able to shine a light along the path for so many who are seeking sustainable ways of eating, working, playing, and living.
December is also a good time to remember the basics. For Southern SAWG, that means our mission: To empower and inspire farmers, individuals, and communities in the South to create an agricultural system that is ecologically sound, economically viable, socially just, and humane. With your support, Southern SAWG is able to achieve our goals and live up to this mission. In this season of giving, please be sure to include Southern SAWG on your gift list, and help us continue our work. It's fast and easy--just click here.
For this holiday season, we wish you peace and joy, with a well-lit path, and warm celebrations. Thank you for your support..
--Your friends at Southern SAWG

Save Money with an Early Bird Registration to the Southern SAWG Conference
Give a Gift that Grows Season after Season
Exceptional Conference Speakers
Agricultural Justice Project Seeks Input
Agricultural Justice Project Certification Opportunity
Finding Good Food in the Desert: Creating an Oasis with Food Security Partners
Food Security Partners to Merge with Manna
Sustainable Agronomic Education Association Conference: February 4-6, 2010; Edinburg, TX
Tennessee Organic Growers Conference: March 5-6, 2010
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Chattanooga Convention Center
January 20-23, 2010

Save Money with an Early Bird Registration

Attendees at Southern SAWG's Practical Tools and Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms Conference come for the practical information and go home with so much more. While over 90 percent of past attendees reported they learned something they would use immediately, even higher numbers say meeting so many folks doing so many great things around the South was a highlight. With the high-rated practical sessions and pre-conference offerings, and the great networking opportunities, this event attracts over 1,000 farmers and advocates every year.
To receive the lowest rate, you must pre-register before December 20, 2009. Complete conference details are at Online registration is now available. Click here to learn more.

Give a Gift that Grows Season after Seasontomato ornaments 2

What better way to please your favorite producer or community food organizer than with a registration to the Southern SAWG conference? Your recipient will experience season after season of "high yields" with the abundance of new information, connections and inspiration that they will gain at the conference and you will be contributing to the growth of a sustainable food system in your community.
We now offer online registration to make it even easier to sign up. Click here to register now. Treat yourself and sign up, too, while you're at it.

Exceptional Conference Speakers

All of our presenters excel at their work and love to share their practical insights and knowledge with others. See our roster of presenters and learn more about them here.
On Thursday evening, we will welcome special guest Dr. Tim LaSalle, CEO of the Rodale Institute, for a thought-provoking presentation on one of the hottest topics of the day--climate change. Dr. LaSalle will explain the relationship between climate change and agriculture and will discuss exactly how sustainable farming practices can reduce the negative impacts of agriculture on our climate. Click here to learn more about Dr. LaSalle. 
To close the conference, the keynote address will be given by Hollis Watkins, a life-long activist in both the civil rights and sustainable agriculture movements. Early on, seeing the connections between community empowerment and food and agriculture, Hollis got involved in creating a more sustainable and just food system in Mississippi and across the region. His insightful presentation will remind us how far we have come and will inspire us to keep up the good fight. Click here to learn more about Mr. Watkins. 
Complete conference details are here. Register now and bring a friend.

Agricultural Justice Project Seeks Input for Standards
Public Comment Period Open through December 31, 2010

The Agricultural Justice Project (AJP) is a non-profit initiative that was founded in 1999 to create fairness and equity in our food system through the development of social justice standards for organic and sustainable agriculture.

The AJP standards, developed with stakeholder input from farmers, farmworkers, and indigenous, retail, and consumer groups, are an attempt to identify the meaning of social justice in organic and sustainable agriculture. The organization revises the standards once very five years, and depends on public participation for this process. This is an opportunity for stakeholders in the food system to provide input on their priorities for ensuring fairness and equity. AJP is reaching out to consumers; employees, managers or owners of retail food businesses; food distributors or food processors; and farmers, farm managers, and farmworkers to provide input on the standards on or before December 31.

To learn more and participate in the AJP standards revision, click here.
Agricultural Justice Project Certification Opportunity
If you operate a farm or food system business in the southern U.S. and are interested in becoming certified to the Agricultural Justice Project Standards, Florida Organic Growers (FOG) may have funding for you through a new research and education project on fairness in the food system. FOG is a founding member of AJP, and their executive director, Marty Mesh, is a member of Southern SAWG's Board of Directors who brings his vision and guidance on many issues, including social justice, to our organization.  
For information click here, call 352.377.6345, or write. Learn more about the Agricultural Justice Project.

Finding Good Food in the Desert:
Creating an Oasis with the Food Security Partners of Middle Tennessee
A woman and her three grandchildren walk into a market miles away from her home. It has taken them 1 hours to make this trip, riding first on one bus, then walking mile to catch a second bus, which required another bus fare.
The woman carefully selects the most nutritious foods that she can afford, staples such as beans and rice, some fresh fruits and vegetables, plus the few necessary household items that she and the eldest child, her seven-year-old granddaughter, will be able to carry.
She pays for the items and leads them down the road to the bus stop for their journey home. They arrive back at her house; the woman puts away the food and prepares their long-awaited dinner. The excursion to buy five sacks of groceries took about 4 hours, and she and the children will have to do it again in a few days. It cost about 5 percent of her weekly income just for the bus fare.
You might think this family lives in a remote village, perhaps in one of the poorer countries of the world. They in fact live in Nashville, Tennessee, and the distance to the store, the closest to her, is all of 3 miles. They live in what community food systems workers call a food desert.
Experts in the field of food security, which addresses ways to reduce hunger and build a community's food resources to meet its needs, generally describe a food desert as an area or situation that isolates people from healthy affordable foods. In Nashville, as in many cities, the absence of grocery stores in low-income neighborhoods, combined with the design of the public transit system, makes what is for most of us a routine task-shopping for groceries-into a near act of heroism for thousands of residents who do not own cars.
This story illustrates the daily struggle for basic necessities, and helps illuminate the near-epidemic rise of obesity, diabetes, and other major health threats to children as well as adults. Residents of food desert communities are much more likely to have poor diets based on high-priced low-nutrition convenience store items and inexpensive fast food. The other side of this coin is the continuing disappearance of small and mid-scale family farms that are close to communities to provide them with fresh, healthy, local produce.
Local Food for Local Power is a project conceived by the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (Southern SAWG) and funded by the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation
to support community-based organizations in their work on local food policy to address these and other issues.
Mark Winne, author of Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty, served as a mentor in the Local Food for Local Power project. Winne believes that one of the critical ways to address issues of food security and access is through public policy. As director of the Food Policy Council Project of the Community Food Security Coalition, he talks about the "3Ps" of developing a just and sustainable food system: Projects, Partnerships, and Policy. When he began working with Local Food for Local Power, he observed that all of the participating groups were involved in projects in their communities around food. "They were also beginning to build some partnerships, local coalitions, and networks," he said. "But where they didn't have much experience was in the public policy area, and that's critical." That's where he plugged in, helping people realize that they could make improvements in their food system if they engaged with their local policy makers.
"Often, when people start hearing about policy, their eyes glaze over," says Lydia Villanueva, Southern SAWG's policy coordinator. Many people, especially those in small, neglected, or isolated communities, feel that it is out of their reach to work with officials, express their needs and ideas, and affect policy to change life for the better. Keecha Harris, coordinator of the Local Food for Local Power project, notes, "A lot of groups think it's something other people do."
Southern SAWG entered into partnerships with four organizations in the South to support them in developing and implementing community food policy action plans that would further their specific goals. Each organization was paired with a mentor who provided ongoing support and feedback for their work to improve access to quality food in their communities. Although each group was quite different, with different goals, the learning community they created through a schedule of regular conference calls turned out to be one of the most powerful aspects of the project.
One of the groups, Food Security Partners (FSP) of Middle Tennessee, had already defined their mission to create a more healthy, just, and sustainable food system, with advocacy and strategic action as primary methods to achieve their goals. Cassi Johnson, FSP's executive director, found the mentoring with Mark Winne and the relationships with other groups to be the keys to their progress, along with the Community Policy Action Plan, or CPAP, which all of the groups developed at the outset of the program.
SSAWG e-news FSPReStoring Nashville and Growing Healthy Kids are the two main FSP initiatives that have been driven by Local Food for Local Power participation. FSP has embarked on an extensive food mapping project, learning about situations such as how long it takes people to travel to a grocery store, what percent of their income they spend on food, and how much it costs people to get to the grocery store, gathering many stories such as the one at the beginning of this article.
"We've done food mapping that shows that in five of our lowest income neighborhoods, you are ten times more likely to see tobacco rather than a tomato in stores where people shop for food," says Johnson. "They are not appealing places, and they've got bars on the windows. Not places where you want to take your family to do your food shopping."
Food Security Partners is taking a tiered approach to tackle these problems. Long-range goals include bringing grocery stores and farmers' markets to underserved neighborhoods, using strategies such as securing tax incentives for retailers that locate there. For the short term, they are working to create changes to the public transportation system in Nashville that will make it easier for residents to get to existing grocery stores.

Growing On:
Food Security Partners of Middle Tennessee to Merge with Manna

Since its founding in 2007, Food Security Partners (FSP) has been housed at the Child and Family Policy Center at the Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies in Nashville. The organization is now moving into its next phase. "We have received incredible support from Vanderbilt University and that relationship has been a critical factor in our growth and success over the past two-and-a-half years," said Executive Director Cassi Johnson. "However, it has always been our goal to spin off from Vanderbilt and either become independent or join with another nonprofit organization."

In keeping with this goal, the decision was recently made for FSP to merge with Manna, a community based organization that is a longtime contributor to food access and social justice, helping create Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, and working to bring WIC (Women, Infants and Children), school breakfast, and child care food programs to Nashville. Johnson, who is a member of Southern SAWG's Board of Directors, said that Food Security Partners and Manna will combine their missions, experience, and enthusiasm to bring a "dynamic, holistic approach to addressing deep-rooted health and social issues, linking access to healthy foods and pressing public health concerns like obesity to food production, food distribution and environmental concerns."

Johnson will serve as the executive director of the merged organization; FSP staff members Shavaun Evans and Miriam Leibowitz, who will be a presenter at Southern SAWG's conference in January, will also be making the move. FSP's current programs will be a part of the new organization, which will soon be sporting a new name and logo.
To learn more... 

Sustainable Agronomic Education Association Annual Conference:
Healthy Soils-Healthy Foods
February 4 - 6, 2010
Edinburg, Texas
SAEA's annual conference covers a variety of topics relating to sustainable and organic agriculture in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. The conference is designed to provide basic and practical knowledge for growers ranging from novice gardeners to large producers.
Dr. Arden Andersen, noted physician and agricultural scientist, will present a one-day seminar, Real Medicine--Real Health, on February 4, before the conference.
For more information and registration, click here.

Tennessee Organic Growers 2010 Conference
March 5 - 6, 2010
Franklin, Tennessee
Save the date for the TOGA (Tennessee Organic Growers Association) Conference, featuring Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm as keynote speaker. TOGA is pleased to be expanding this annual conference to two days of speakers, panels, farm tours and workshops.
Learn more and register.
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Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group, Inc. (Southern SAWG) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded in 1991 to promote sustainable agriculture in the Southern United States.