This year CSANR sponsored travel for several WSU students to attend the Tilth Conference in Spokane, WA. We are posting reflections written by the students over the next several weeks. Please feel free to comment and give these students your feedback. To view student posts from this year and prior years, visit http://csanr.wsu.edu/tag/tilth/
As a long time farmer and recent graduate student, going to conferences like the Tilth Conference are opportunities to go see my people. People who know what it is like to work where they live and work hours that are not governed by a clock but by the work that needs to be done. The conference is also an opportunity for those that live with dirt on their boots to shake hands and share thoughts/ideas and a meal with the researcher, the representative of the company selling its wares, and collectively gather with others who focus their time and energy on the food system that we all rely upon.
Part of my time was spent on the Farm Tour and Symposium which included a visit to LINC foods which is a worker and farmer owned cooperative food hub; Lazy R Ranch which is a fourth-generation family farm that produces grass-fed beef; and Urban Eden Farm, small urban farm that runs a CSA and distributes produce through LINC foods.
This tour was designed to give the participants a sense of how one of our regionalized food systems work. From the production of meat and vegetables to an examination of sales, marketing and distribution, we were able to talk with a farmer, rancher and the staff of a regionally owned distribution center that provides fair and fulfilling employment. These three entities cooperate along with a host of other farmers and ranchers to provide food directly to schools, hospitals and local businesses. This model has proven itself overtime to be an economic and ecological investment that benefits all who participate in this regional food system.
An added benefit of this tour came when I learned that we would have the opportunity to talk with the ranchers who were dedicated not only to high-quality grass-fed beef but to the long term ecological sustainability of their ranch.
As a graduate student who is interested in researching how agricultural systems can design management systems that recognize and sustain the ecological services that support the provisional services that we as humans need (food, fresh water, wood, fiber etc), I was quite interested to hear that Lazy R Ranch utilizes a data monitoring tool known as Land EKG. This is a monitoring tool is designed to teach ranchers and public land stewards methods to monitor ecological processes so that they can better understand large scale trends on the lands they work with. Essentially this tool teaches land managers to collect, analyze and record ecological data points in order to create more sustainable rangeland solutions.
Moving forward, I am interested in how tools like Land EKG that monitor ecological services can help develop better models of ecological assessment and will help us become better land managers, stewards and foster a more sustainable land ethic.