A Symposium to Remember

by Christine Armiger

On October 28th, 2006, The Center for Tropical Ecology and Conservation sponsored its 4th annual symposium at Antioch University New England. “Banking on Biodiversity: the Ecological and Socio-Economic Dimensions of Sustainable Agriculture” brought together approximately 110 individuals, representing 44 institutions, organizations and businesses.

The symposium focused on developing links, partnerships and strategies to tackle the issues of social justice and ecological responsibility as they relate to sustainable agriculture in New England and the Tropics. Twenty five national and international speakers, from the US, Canada, Central America and the UK, presented their knowledge and experiential findings to a wide range of participants, including: farmers, educators, social and environmental activists, conservation biologists, non-profit and for-profit business employees, government workers and engaged community members.

The event was kicked off by Dean Cycon, founder and owner of Dean’s Beans Organic Coffee Company, who artfully synthesized the goals of the symposium in a compelling keynote presentation entitled “Living Your Values, How Your Personal and Professional Choices Affect Sustainability.” Throughout the day, panel discussions continued to hammer away at the challenges of keeping our farming systems ecologically and economically sustainable-particularly for small farmers who have a difficult time competing with large scale industrial agriculture. Issues concerning biodiversity conservation, poverty, community, the global market, and the “on the ground” impacts of national and international agricultural policy continued to surface in the dialogue.

The final session, entitled “Creating Links and Partnerships,” enabled speakers and participants alike to engage frankly in an informal setting about the more challenging questions that arose, such as “How do we link small farmer interests in the US and undeveloped countries through technology, marketing tools and resource cooperation?” The results of this session were beautifully synthesized and reported to the group at large by Antioch’s Environmental Studies Department, core faculty, Rachel Thiet, Steve Chase and CTEC Co—Director, Peter Palmiotto.

Response from this event has been overwhelmingly positive