MILLHEIM, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture will present the PASAbilities Sustainable Ag Leadership Awards at the 26th Annual Farming for the Future Conference, held in State College, Pa., on Feb. 1-4. The award winners, usually a farming individual or couple and a business, are selected by the Board of Directors from a list of nominees generated by PASA’s membership. The awards honor those who use sustainable farming and business strategies that help to bring about food system transformation. This year’s recipients include a family farm — Todd & John Hopkins of Forks Farm — and a small farm management software company — Small Farm Central.
At Forks Farm, John and Todd Hopkins have been pioneers of a multiple-species, managed grazing approach to livestock production. John and Todd Hopkins are Pennsylvania natives who worked on ranches out west in the 1980s before returning home to found Forks Farm, located outside of Bloomsburg. Starting with six Hereford heifers, the Hopkinses began by breeding and raising cattle for auction, but bottom-line realities and personal beliefs soon led them to embrace ideas they were learning from others — namely Joel Salatin and other farmers they were meeting through the PASA network who were grazing multi-species and using direct marketing to move their product.
Today, Forks Farm is an 86-acre operation, including pastured poultry, beef, lamb, pork, and eggs, all focused on a direct market model. The core tenet for the Hopkinses has always been sustainability, and their stewardship of their land from field to forest reflects their view that animals are what they eat, and that a healthy, vibrant earth creates healthy, vibrant beings.
Small Farm Central provides innovative marketing and management tools to help family farms and start-up farms succeed. Small Farm Central founder Simon Huntley grew up on a small farm in the hills of southwestern Pennsylvania. An information technology specialist by trade, he began Small Farm Central in 2006, after working to help expand and create online presence for a longtime Colorado fruit grower and his start-up CSA.
Ten years in, Small Farm Central has now worked with thousands of farms in North America, helping growers market themselves and reach customers interested in small-scale, sustainable food systems. In a field where many know soil but few know UNIX, Small Farm Central has helped farmers solve the other side of the farming equation — marketing and affiliated technologies — to grow profits. Huntley sees food system sustainability as localized, place-based farms that are supporting communities that in turn support them, and that are treating the land well, while thriving economically. The key for Simon in his work has been to always “be curious, learn from each other, and be willing to be wrong.”
For both honorees, PASA has played an important role in their success. Small Farm Central has been a regular at the PASA Conference for years as both a sponsor and attendee, and has built much of its core farm customer base through the PASA network. Similarly, Forks Farm has found in PASA a strong, supportive community, one in which they have been both students and mentors. PASA is proud to honor John and Todd Hopkins and Small Farm Central with the 2017 PASAbilities Sustainable Ag Leadership Awards. The awards will be presented Saturday morning as part of the PASAbilities Plenary, and will include a brief speech by each recipient.
Registration is required to attend. Pre-registration closes today. On-site registration is available, at increased rates, afterwards. For more information please call 814-349-9856 or visit pasafarming.org/conference.
PASA thanks Opening Keynote Sponsor Lady Moon Farms and PASAbilities Sponsor Kimberton Whole Foods for their generous support of this annual event.
The Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture is one of the largest and most active sustainable agriculture organizations in the U.S. Through our SOIL Institute education programs, regional marketing assistance for farmers, advocacy, and public outreach, PASA seeks to promote profitable farms that produce healthy food for all people while respecting the natural environment. PASA’s hallmark event, the Farming for the Future Conference, draws thousands of participants from more than 30 states and six countries each February. For more information, visit pasafarming.org.