Crowd at research farm

The crowd gathers at the CEFS Research Farm in Goldsboro

On a perfect fall day, several hundred people gather around Ray Archuleta and Steve Woodruff of the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service. They are intently watching a rainfall simulator demonstrate what happens when rain falls on agricultural soils that have been managed in different ways. Overhead sprinklers mimic a hard summer rain over sections of real soil pulled from fields that have been managed as permanent pasture, or using conservation tillage, conventional tillage, and no-till practices.

Steve Woodruff

Steve Woodruff of USDA NRCS

Glass jars beneath each soil sample begin to fill up with both sediment runoff and water that has filtered through the soil. The water varies from the nearly clear water emerging from the permanent pasture section, to the dark amber muddy water emerging from the conventional-tillage section. The jars underneath the pasture are no more than ¼ full (demonstrating the holding capacity of the soil), while the jars underneath the tilled section are nearly overflowing (demonstrating the soil’s minimal ability to retain moisture). People stand on tip-toe, jostling for a good view.

The demonstration was part of CEFS’ SOILbration, a day-long educational event held on October 17 as part of CEFS’ 20th Anniversary celebrations. Approximately 300 people attended the SOILbration , which also offered cover crop and other demonstrations, tours of the farm’s various units, exhibitors, posters, and a delicious, locally-sourced lunch.

Dr. Joel Gruver demonstrating "revealing roots" at the Small Farm Unit

Dr. Joel Gruver demonstrating “revealing roots” at the Small Farm Unit

The event drew farmers, extension agents, students, food system advocates and activists, and members of the general public. Ciranna Bird, a medical writer from Raleigh who was visiting the farm for the first time, said “I had no idea how passionate people — soil scientists, farmers, and conservationists — felt about protecting soil. The enthusiasm and knowledge base of the speakers and attendees at the event was amazing!” Bird was drawn to the SOILbration because of her interest in pasture-based dairy systems. She said that having the opportunity to tour CEFS’ Pasture-Based Dairy Unit was “irresistible.”

Fred Kirschenmann

Fred Kirschenmann

The celebratory weekend continued the next day with CEFS’ Annual Sustainable Agriculture Lecture, “The Future of Food and Agriculture,” given by renowned sustainable agriculture expert Fred Kirschenmann.

Kirschenmann is a distinguished Fellow at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture in Ames, Iowa and President of Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in New York. He gave an impassioned argument for the importance of long-term thinking about a range of agricultural and food systems issues, especially in the face of climate change and other pressing challenges. You can watch Kirschenmann’s lecture here.

Reunion dinner at NC State's Talley Student Center

Reunion dinner at NC State’s Talley Student Center

The 20th anniversary celebrations culminated that evening with a reunion dinner at NC State’s Talley Student Center highlighting delicious, local and sustainable foods. A panel of speakers representing CEFS’ past and future was moderated by Dr. John O’Sullivan, recently retired CEFS Co-Director from NC A&T.

Dr. Paul Mueller, Professor Emeritus of Crop Science at NC State University, and one of CEFS’ founders said, “What started as a ‘place’ thing, based at Cherry Research Farm in Goldsboro, has become much more than that. I never could have imagined it at the time.”

Dr. Roger Crickenberger, NC State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Administrative liaison to CEFS’ Board of Advisors, and one of CEFS’ earliest supporters, agreed. “The conference on Southern region sustainable agriculture research and education programming in Callaway Gardens, Georgia in 1993 was the first and most important engagement of a diverse array of stakeholders, prominently including farmers, to begin understanding and communicating the concept of agricultural sustainability in our region.  Out of that experience came a comfort level of engaging diverse thinkers that set the model for how CEFS was organized and operates to this day,” he said.

Speaker panel (L-R): Dr. Paul Mueller, Sue Perry Cole, Dr. Roger Crickenberger, Shorlette Ammons, and Alex Hitt

Speaker panel (L-R): Dr. Paul Mueller, Sue Perry Cole, Dr. Roger Crickenberger, Shorlette Ammons, and Alex Hitt

Alex Hitt of Peregrine Farm in Alamance County and long-time CEFS Board Member, said that he and his wife Betsy have had an “amazing ride” since CEFS “welcomed us into the group.”

Sue Perry Cole, President and Chief Executive Officer of the North Carolina Association of Community Development Corporations and member of CEFS’ Board of Advisors, and Shorlette Ammons, CEFS’ Community-Based Food Systems Outreach Coordinator, spoke to the most pressing problem facing our food system today, and CEFS’ biggest challenge for the future: addressing food equity issues and making good, healthy food accessible for everyone.

Following the panel discussion, CEFS Director Nancy Creamer welcomed Dan Gerlach, President of the Golden LEAF Foundation, to the podium.  He said, “Passion, purpose and stewardship are what excite investors in a cause.   By making more North Carolinians aware of where food comes from and who grows it, CEFS has helped expand markets and provide more opportunities for those who want to stay on the land.   I personally am a 10 Percenter

[referring to CEFS’ 10% Campaign] and am proud to be one!”

Danielle Treadwell giving her "CEFS Talk"

Danielle Treadwell giving her “CEFS Talk”

The dinner program then concluded with “CEFS Talks”, featuring CEFS alumni describing how their CEFS experiences influenced them and how they’re impacting the world now. There were many laughable moments and at times, teary eyes as well, as former interns, graduate students and staff shared how much CEFS has meant to them.

Thank you to all our sponsors, and to everyone who celebrated with us!  Click here to see photos from our 20th Anniversary Special Events.

From the December 2014 E-Newsletter