Contact name: Hannah Smith-Brubaker
Phone number: 717-576-0794
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December 3, 2013

Farmers Union Convention Keynoter and Renowned Agricultural Economist, John Ikerd, Releases Paper

 Family Farms: Our Promise for a Sustainable Future


HARRISBURG, PA. [December 3, 2013] John Ikerd, renowned agricultural economist, today released his paper titled “Family Farms: Our Promise for a Sustainable Future” to the Pennsylvania Farmers Union. He will deliver the paper in full on Saturday, December 7th, at the Farmers Union annual convention which is open to the public (Dixon University, Harrisburg, PA). An excerpt follows:

“True family farmers have a “sense of community.” Ask family farmers why they farm, and many will mention that they like the sense of belonging and caring that comes with being part of a vibrant rural community. Farm families often identify themselves and identify others in terms of their networks of familial and social relationships. Family farmers also have a strong sense of place. On true family farms, the farm and the family are inseparable. The same farm with a different family would be a different farm and the same family with a different farm would be a different family. The family and the land are an interconnected part of the same whole. Sustainable farms and farm families are resourceful, resilient, and regenerative living systems, reflecting the essential characteristics of sustainable economies and societies.”

The Farmers Union convention will begin at 8am with a members’ business meeting and then will transition into a public “meet-and-greet” at 10:30am. Anyone is welcome to attend the day which will include John Ikerd’s keynote, as well as a soils talk by Jerry Brunetti and a presentation by state agroforester Tracey Coulter; a policies and current issues update; and a resource area for questions dealing with farm/business/personal insurance options and the Affordable Care Act. Cost for the day is $35 ($20 members) and includes lunch. More information, including workshop descriptions, is available at


About Pennsylvania Farmers Union (PFU):

PFU is a membership organization made up of farmers and their supporters who are united to grow family agriculture through education, legislation & cooperation. Join PFU today to add strength to our voice on issues that concern us all!

About the presenters and their workshops:

Keynote: John Ikerd

Family Farms: Our Promise for a Sustainable Future

John Ikerd was raised on a small dairy farm in southwest Missouri, is today Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Economics, University of Missouri, and writes and speaks extensively on issues related to sustainability with an emphasis on economics and agriculture. He is author of Essentials of Economic Sustainability, Sustainable CapitalismA Return to Common SenseSmall Farms are Real FarmsCrisis and Opportunity: Sustainability in American Agriculture, and A Revolution of the Middle 

Workshop details: Real farming has always been as much a way of life as a business. On true family farms, for example, the farms and the families are inseparable. Profits are necessary for the economic well-being of the family, but its the quality of “farm life” that makes the family business worthwhile. True family farmers take care of their land and care about their neighbors and customers, not because it’s more profitable but because it’s a better ethical and social way of life. It’s the social and ethical aspect of family farms that make farming sustainability, and the economic preoccupation of farm businesses that make them unsustainable. In addition, many farm business have failed economically and many that have succeeded are no longer places where most families would choose to work or live. Family farms are still the best hope for a sustainable future for farming and for humanity.

Special Guest:  Jerry Brunetti

Living Soils: Essentials for Healthy Pastures & Fields

Jerry Brunetti is a soil and crop consultant for livestock and produce farms, as well as ranches. He is a highly demanded lecturer and speaker on topics that include soil fertility, crop quality, animal nutrition and livestock health.  Jerry also speaks about his cancer diagnosis and the path of nutrition…a path he links to healthy soil, nutritious food, and profitable, sustainable farming practices.

Workshop details: Healthy soils are more productive and more profitable. Managing soil ecosystems depends upon cooperation amongst the physical, biological, geological and biodiverse components of soil systems, which in turn translate into stronger plants with more drought, disease and insect resistance.


Special Guest:  Tracey Coulter

Agroforestry: Connecting our Farms, Forests & Watersheds

Tracey Coulter serves as Agroforestry Coordinator in the Rural & Community Forestry Section of the DCNR Bureau of Forestry where she works to strengthen working landscapes by building the connections among sustainable forestry, sustainable agriculture, and healthy watersheds. She and her husband are restoring an 1830s log cabin in Centre County where they are planting a “forest farm” including ramps, ginseng, goldenseal, and, of course, chestnuts.

Workshop details: Today, forests comprise about 60% of the land cover in Pennsylvania, but its non‐forested land‐base is largely agricultural. Despite the predominance of these land uses, agroforestry, or the integration of trees and agriculture is poorly understood and generally not considered by landowners or farmers in land use planning. Still, a 2005 survey of forest landowners and farmers (Strong and Jacobson) indicated that one third of respondents were interested in producing non‐lumber forest products such as ginseng, ramps or mushrooms and one quarter of the participants indicated that they were interested in practices that would enhance livestock production such as silvopasture, windbreaks, and riparian forest buffers. This presentation will introduce these key agroforestry practices and present examples that can be adapted to Pennsylvania’s farms and forests along with on‐ the‐ground examples of what’s happening right here on our fields and forests.

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