West Virginia Food Revolution

The following is  a description of a workshop to be presented by Tapapunjah and Balabhadra at the  West Virginia  Small Farm Conference.

West Virginia’s Bottom-up Revolution: The No Harm Farm.

West Virginia is hurdling towards local foods. Within the next ten years, foods grown in our own counties will gradually stock the shelves of stores now carrying brands from international and out of state vendors. That day is coming thanks to a  team effort. All the major stakeholders, such as the Dept. of Health and Human Services, school board administrators, USDA. WV Dept. of Agriculture, legislators, county extension agents and city officials, are beginning to see the need for working collaboratively to make local foods a reality. That’s the good news.

Now the bad news. Nobody’s listening. They prefer fast food, salty snacks, sugary drinks and don’t cook much anyway. A “top down” centralized approach won’t ignite a food system overhaul without bottom-up “buy-in”—that is, without waves of people—especially children—actively involved in growing their own food.  An army of ag economists armed with food audits, pie charts, and feasibility studies can’t deliver the real deal—lifestyle change. Why? Because the skills, aptitudes and attitudes that created our broken food system, are not the same as those now needed to reclaim our food future from the bottom up.

Here are the brutal facts: West Virginia is #1 in diabetes prevalence (466,000 residents), #1 in high blood pressure (33.6%), #2 in obese adults (65%) and #2 in asthma (10.1%). Why mention these morbid statistics? Because these diseases are diet related and preventable. We’re a State suffering from junk food malnutrition who needs to start eating lower on the food chain, especially the protein (meat) ladder. Let’s face it, we’re out flanked by a well financed toxic food culture.

The No Harm Farming workshop candidly examines why the heavily subsidized beef/poultry farming operations are soon to become relics of the past. We explore traditional non-violent farming practices that focus on the benefits of plant based diets and plant based protein sources, including milk from protected dairy herds. We’ll discuss why domesticated farm animals—especially cows—are such valuable assets to both the rural and urban landscape.

Our vision of the future?. Home economics classes returning to the public school curriculums. Small scale organic “farmetts”  dotting the suburban, city and small town horizons. Raised bed gardens popping-up on school playgrounds and low income housing projects. Food deserts transformed into food hubs that generate jobs and career paths.

The workshop is led by Marshall County organic farmers, William Dove from the International Society for Cow Protection (ISCOWP) and Terry Sheldon from the Small Farm Training Center. Both speakers have traveled and taught in Europe and India, Dove currently teaches draft animal power—oxen. Sheldon’s Small Farm Training Center grows and charitably supplies fresh vegetables to Wheeling’s soup kitchens and faith based food pantries.

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