The Smithsonian’s Folklife Festival
celebrates sustainable agriculture this year

Farmers and malls don’t often go together, but they will later this month when the Smithsonian Folklife Festival turns part of the National Mall into a vibrant celebration of sustainable ag—and NewFarm.org will be there.

Posted June 16, 2005: The Rodale Institute®, which brings you NewFarm.org, has been invited to participate in the Food Culture USA portion of the Folklife Festival, which runs from June 23 to June 27 and June 30 to July 4, 2005 in Washington, D.C. Food Culture USA, say its creators, “celebrates the extraordinary story of the American food revolution of the last 30 years. The program focuses on three of its driving forces: the immigration that has introduced new foods and tastes to American cooking, the grassroots movement for sustainable agriculture and its connection with traditional methods of growing, and the role that chefs and cooks as tradition-bearers have played in encouraging appreciation for the great variety of American foodways.”

“The growing interest in food has introduced a number of movements in the United States,” said co-curator Stephen Kidd of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. “These include a boom in organic products and produce; the ascendancy of the soybean; the benefits of free-range meat and sustainable farming; and the interest in experiencing food at alternative markets rather than shopping at conventional grocery stores.” The Festival explores and celebrates all of these changes.

The Rodale Institute employees will be staffing a tent throughout the event devoted to explaining the connection between healthy soil and healthy food to interested visitors. (The total draw for the event is over 1 million folks—one of the largest celebrations in the nation.) If you come, please drop by and chat.

We’ll also be participating in informal “Around the Table” chats with other food and farming experts throughout the celebration, including:

  • a free-ranging chat about local food and local economies;
  • a discussion of sustainability and local sourcing by restaurants and retailers;
  • and an exploration of the differences between organic, natural and conventionally produced foods.

Best of all, the Food Culture USA portion of the Festival is going to be Sustainable Ag Central for the two weeks of the event—an incredible convocation of organic, sustainable and traditional farmers from around the country and the globe, as well as dozens of chefs who source food locally. Among those who will be showing and telling (just a small sampling):

Dairy farmers and artisanal cheese makers from six different states.

Representatives from a small organic farmers’ cooperative in Bolivia that grows, manufactures and exports cocoa products—powder, butter and chocolate.

Members of a cooperative of around 300 coffee farmers in the southern highlands of Tanzania.

Eliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch of Four Season Farm in Maine—famous for their off season greenhouse production and their books.

A variety of community activists from around the country who have been involved in school lunch programs and urban and school garden initiatives—including Alice Waters and others involved in the Edible Schoolyard project in Berkeley, CA.

Moie and Jim Crawford of New Morning Farm in western PA, who’ve been selling at DC farmers’ markets for over 30 years. (See Moie’s story in New Farm for her perspective on the multiple values of selling direct in a city.)

Will and Erika Allen, who run Growing Power (based in Milwaukee), a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting small family farms and bring healthy affordable food to urban areas. (Will, a giant of a man and a former pro basketball player, is also involved in the National Immigrant Farming Initiative.)

Elizabeth Beggins and Ann Yonkers of Pot Pie Farm in Whitman, Maryland. Ann, a crusader for farmers’ markets, is co-director of FreshFarm, which runs six markets in the Chesapeake Bay area.

Hmong immigrants Tzaxe and Ying Lee, who farm 130 acres of specialty vegetables and 230 acres of grapes in Fresno, California.

Don Bustos, a pepper farmer in New Mexico, is president of Santa Fe’s Farmers’ Market Institute.

Wildcrafters Nova Kim and Les Hook of Albany, Vermont, who sell wild foods to restaurants throughout New England.

Food Culture USA events run daily from 11 am to 5:30 pm. You’ll find the farmers, food activists and chefs in tents and pavilions on the National Mall almost directly in front of the classic old castle building that is the Smithsonian headquarters. For more details about Food Culture USA, go to www.folklife.si.edu/festival/2005/Food/index.html. You’ll find a link at the bottom of the page to a PDF document that provides a detailed schedule of all events.

Below are some details of our own scheduled appearances:

June 23, 12 noon: Passing it On: Soil, Pollen, Taste & Health

June 25, 4 pm: Organic, Natural and Conventional: Navigating the Food Landscape

June 26, 4 pm: Local Food, Local Economies

June 27, 3 pm: Sustaining Tradition: How sustainability connects with traditional growing methods

July 2, 4 pm: Organic Standards: an honest discussion about the organic standards and how their integrity can be maintained.

July 3, 11 am: Traditional Crops in New Soil: the growth of immigrant farming in this country, and how it is preserving biodiversity.

July 4, 1 pm: Sustainability and Local Sourcing: the importance and challenge for restaurants and retailers of how to source food locally.