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Event Explores Food Connections

BAR HARBOR — College of the Atlantic’s Sustainable Food Systems conference is offering a feast for the mind, mouth and eyes. The conference, Food Connections: Reconnecting Hands, Mouth & Mind through Food Systems Education, begins Friday, April 20 with a reception in the college’s Blum Gallery, to celebrate an associated Maine farming photography exhibit, continuing with talks by John Piotti of Maine Farmland Trust, and the executive director of Food First, Eric Holt-Giménez.

Food Connections treats the entire story of food, moving beyond farm and fork, to packaging, processing, distribution, sales, consumption, and waste. The conference, says organizer, Molly Anderson, COA’s Partridge Chair in Food and Sustainable Agricultural Systems, will come to grips with what people need to know to transform food systems, and how this can best be learned.

Eric Holt-Giménez’s talk is the first keynote of the weekend focusing on food justice, food sovereignty, and how these subjects are treated within our schools and colleges. After a Saturday morning welcome by COA President Darron Collins, MacArthur Fellow Gary Nabhan, author and research scientist at the University of Arizona’s Southwest Center, will give a talk titled, “Redesigning Local Food Systems for Land Health, Human Health and Community Economic Health.”

Among the numerous panels are those featuring chef Stu Comen of Yale University talking with representatives of campus food teams about what they are doing to improve their institution’s food systems. The global perspective on food systems education will be offered by members of the Trans-Atlantic partnership, including Angelika Ploeger of the University of Kassel, Suzanne Morse and Anderson of COA, and Nic Lampkin of the Elm Farm Organic Research Centre and University of Reading, England.

Sunday morning will offer a variety of fieldtrips, including one onto Frenchman Bay with two COA alumni, Natalie Springuel of the Maine Sea Grant Extension, and Toby Stephenson, COA boat captain who will speak about the region’s fisheries, and the connected histories of fishing and farming. Other groups will visit COA’s farms and Acadia National Park.

There are numerous smaller sessions throughout the day on Saturday. Among the discussions are those on the intersections of farming, fishing, and forestry policies; the current farm bill; sustainability standards and certification; questions about sustainable meat; and the concept of “public goods” which farms provide beyond food, fiber and fuel.

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