Former U.S. Deputy Agriculture Secretary to Keynote Ohio’s Largest Food and Farming Conference

Granville, OH—Former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan will be the featured keynote speaker at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 35th annual conference, Affirming Our Roots, Breaking New Ground, on Sunday, February 16 in Granville (Licking County).

“We are pleased to welcome Kathleen Merrigan to this year’s conference as we look back over the past 35 years,” said Renee Hunt, OEFFA’s program director and the event’s lead organizer. “As one of the nation’s foremost organic agriculture advocates, she has played a significant role in the achievements the organic food movement has realized.”
 
Merrigan will speak as part of the state’s largest sustainable food and farm conference, an event which draws more than 1,200 attendees from across Ohio and the Midwest. In addition to Merrigan, this year’s conference will feature organic farmer and author Atina Diffley as keynote speaker on Saturday, February 15; more than 100 educational workshops; two in-depth pre-conference workshops on Friday, February 14; a trade show; activities for children and teens; locally-sourced and organic homemade meals, and Saturday evening entertainment.
 
Merrigan served as U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture from 2009 to 2013. Before joining the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Merrigan spent six years as a top aide to Senator Patrick Leahy, former chair of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee. There, she helped write the original law that created the National Organic Program to establish organic standards and a certification process for organic farms and processors. From 1999 to 2001, she helped to implement the new organic rules as head of the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), the agency which oversees the organic program.
 
As Deputy Secretary, Merrigan oversaw the day-to-day operations of the USDA, along with its $149 billion budget. She played a vital role in developing the department's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, championed a national farm-to-school program and funding for farmers to build hoop houses, increased crop insurance and conservation support for organic producers, and served as a strong advocate for the organic program, organic farmers, and local food systems.
 
Merrigan holds a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and spent eight years as an assistant professor and director of the Agriculture, Food, and Environment graduate program at Tufts University in Boston. She has also been engaged in agricultural policy through positions at the Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture, the Texas Department of Agriculture, and the Massachusetts State Senate. In November 2009, Merrigan made history by becoming the first woman to chair the Ministerial Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organizations of the United Nations. In 2010, Time magazine named her as one of the "100 Most Influential People in the World." She is currently a consultant and professional speaker at Merrigan Consulting.
 
“It has been an honor to play a small part in history. I hope that during my tenure I was able to help open USDA’s doors a little wider, inviting new and discouraged constituencies to participate in USDA programs,” Merrigan told the National Journal.
 
Her keynote address, presented by Chipotle Mexican Grill, is titled “Dysfunctional DC Matters: Ten Reasons to Stay Engaged in Federal Agricultural Policy,” and will take place on Sunday, February 16 at 2:45 p.m. Between government shutdowns, endless multi-year Farm Bill negotiations, and other political gridlock, it can be hard for consumers and farmers to believe in the federal government anymore. Merrigan will explore why federal agricultural policy still matters, identify targets for policy reform, and explain why producers and conscientious eaters can achieve real social change by getting involved.
 
On Sunday, February 16 at 10:35 a.m., Merrigan will also lead a one hour workshop, “Show Me the Money: Farming Federal Programs.” Using the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass, Merrigan will explore what federal programs are available to farms, nonprofits, and businesses seeking assistance to build local and regional food systems.
 
The OEFFA conference will be held at Granville Middle and High schools, 248 New Burg St. in Granville. For more information about the conference, or to register, go to www.oeffa.org/conference2014.
 
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Our Sponsors
Chipotle Mexican Grill, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, Northstar Café/Third and Hollywood, UNFI Foundation, Granville Exempted Village Schools, Mustard Seed Market and Café, Northridge Organic Farm, Organic Valley, Snowville Creamery, Whole Foods Market, Albert Lea Seed Company, Around the World Gourmet, Canal Junction Farmstead Cheese, Casa Nueva, Earth Tools, Eban's Bakehouse, Edible Cleveland, Green BEAN Delivery, Green Field Farms, Lucky Cat Bakery, OSU School of Environment and Natural Resources, Raisin Rack Natural Food Market, Stauf’s Coffee Roasters, Swainway Urban Farm, Andelain Fields, Curly Tail Organic Farm, C-TEC of Licking County, DNO Produce, Eden Foods, Glass Rooster Cannery, King Family Farm, Law Office of David G. Cox, Metro Cuisine, Two Caterers Contemporary Cuisine, Whole Hog BBQ, Bad Dog Acres, Bexley Natural Market, Bluebird Farm, CaJohns Fiery Foods, Carriage House Farm, Charlie’s Apples at Windy Hill Farm, Fedco Seeds, Flying J Farm, Hartzler Dairy Farm, The Hills Market, Lucky's Market, Marshy Meadows Farm, Middlefield Original Cheese, Nourse Farms, Pâtisserie Lallier, Schmidt Family Farms, Stonyfield Farm, Stutzman Farms, Sunsprout Farms of Central Ohio, and Wayward Seed Farm

About OEFFA
The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) is a state-wide, grassroots, nonprofit organization founded in 1979 by farmers, gardeners, and conscientious eaters working together to create and promote a sustainable and healthful food and farming system. For more information, go to www.oeffa.org.

Conference Registration Update
Saturday meals are now SOLD OUT; a very limited number of Sunday meals are still available. Online registration for the conference and pre-conference will remain open until Tuesday, February 11 or until sold out. Past conferences have sold out in advance, so early registration is encouraged to avoid disappointment. To register or for more information about the conference, including maps, directions, featured presenters and workshops, pre-conference descriptions, workshop listings, hotel options, and a schedule, go to www.oeffa.org/conference2014. For additional questions, contact Renee Hunt at (614) 421-2022 Ext. 205 or renee@oeffa.org.

Artwork and Images
For the conference art image, speaker photographs, or pictures from past conferences, contact Lauren Ketcham at (614) 421-2022 Ext. 203 or lauren@oeffa.org.

Press Passes and Media Inquiries
OEFFA offers a limited number of press passes to members of the media who would like to attend conference and pre-conference events. We can also help members of the press schedule interviews with keynote speakers and workshop presenters. To arrange an interview or request a press pass, contact Lauren Ketcham at (614) 421-2022 Ext. 203 or lauren@oeffa.org.

Event Calendar and Public Service Announcement
The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association's (OEFFA) 35th annual conference, Affirming Our Roots, Breaking New Ground, is February 15-16, 2014 in Granville, Ohio. This is Ohio’s largest sustainable agriculture conference and will feature keynote speakers Kathleen Merrigan and Atina Diffley; more than 100 workshops on sustainable farming, gardening, and homesteading; local and organic meals; a kids’ conference, teen conference, and childcare; a trade show; Saturday evening entertainment, and pre-conference events on produce wholesale marketing and soil health and biodiversity on Friday, February 14. To register, or for more information, go to www.oeffa.org/conference2014 or call (614) 421-2022.