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Real Organic Project Symposium:
April 3+ 4, 2020 | Dartmouth College | 9am – 5pm

The Real Organic Project announces next year’s symposium, “Earth In Human Hands- A Path Forward.” We will face the ways in which agriculture impacts us as a species. Most especially we will look at how real organic farming is critical to our health, and even to our survival. And how do we lead the way to the change we need to be?

The symposium will be held at Dartmouth College on April 3 and 4. The symposium will be engaged and supported by many departments at the college, as well as by many foundations and individuals. It is rare to see such a blending of farming, social policy, and academia!

“This planet came with a set of instructions, but we seem to have misplaced them. Important rules like, ‘Don’t poison the water, soil, or air, don’t let the earth get overcrowded, and don’t touch the thermostat’ have been broken. Buckminster Fuller said that Spaceship Earth was so ingeniously designed that no one has a clue that we are on one, flying through the universe at a million miles per hour, with no need for seat belts, lots of room in coach, and really good food—but all that is changing.” 
Paul Hawken

Our April 4th evening keynote speaker for the symposium will be Paul Hawken. Paul will continue the conversation that he began with Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming. It has been two years since Paul edited this international bestseller. He is now working on the sequel, which will offer a specific path to global regeneration in one lifetime. Paul will share his rich thinking with us on how to work together as a species to transform our agriculture, silviculture, and aquaculture. Paul serves on the Advisory Board of the Real Organic Project.

Paul will be introduced by Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. Chellie has been a hero in Congress to organic farmers for years. She is still a Maine organic farmer herself. She continues to be our strongest voice in government, calling for a return to the integrity that the National Organic Program was originally based on. Chellie came to Thetford three years ago to speak at the first rally for organic integrity, along with Senator Pat Leahy and Congressman Peter Welch. They joined a respected group of organic farmers on a wagon in a field. We were speaking to create protect the organic movement we had all worked so hard to create.

“Organic farming has grown from a small, niche market to a booming, $40-billon industry that has been great for our rural economy, and we don’t anything interfering with that. It is our job to make sure we preserve that brand. There are 1200 lobbyists on the hill that work for the agriculture and food processing industry. They spend $350 million dollars a year on forming opinions in Washington, and that is more than the defense industry. So don’t underestimate their power. They would be very happy to have a lot of variations on ‘organic’ to water down this brand, and the consumer will be completely confused.”
– Chellie Pingree

ROP is still organizing symposium sessions, but we have already confirmed our daytime keynote speakers, Eliot Coleman and David Grinspoon. Eliot is a pioneering organic farmer, researcher, teacher, and author who has led thousands of farmers to choose an organic path. I am lucky enough to be one of his early students. His book, The New Organic Grower, has become a bible for many organic farmers. His many interviews, talks, and articles have helped hundreds of thousands of people to gain a deeper understanding of biological farming. Eliot doesn’t just teach techniques. He teaches ways of thinking. He remains deeply engaged in these public conversations about what “organic” means, often fighting to defend real organic against the corporate redefinition. Eliot serves on the Advisory Board of the Real Organic Project.

“Those of us farming organically today did not invent the concept of organic agriculture. It is a gift from 100 years of development by wise people who farmed before us. We are the beneficiaries of the intuition, experimentation, and dedicated efforts of our predecessors who were concerned with the detrimental effects on food quality caused by industrial methods. They developed the art and science of organic farming because they understood that proper nourishment of human beings only results from proper nourishment of the soil. Organic farming is best defined by the benefits of growing crops on a biologically active fertile soil. Crop resistance to pests and diseases is an outcome of farming a soil that fully nourishes the crops.”
– Eliot Coleman

We are pleased to have Dr. David Grinspoon speak on April 3rd. David is a former NASA astrobiologist who has written the book, Earth In Human Hands: Shaping Our Planet’s Future, about the existential dilemma that we all face as we unwittingly transform Mother Earth. “The Anthropocene dilemma,” Grinspoon said, “is that we have global influence without global control. So far we’re acting like adolescent planet vandals.” The questions that he asks are the deep dilemmas that we must face as a planet altering organism.

“What if an essential part of becoming a very wise species, equipped for survival with powerful technology, is to realize and internalize the advantage of living more in accordance with the natural systems within which your existence is embedded?
What if one characteristic of really advanced intelligence is to become less and less distinguishable from natural phenomena?”

– David Grinspoon

Our other spectacular speakers include: 

  • Emily Oakley organic farmer, ROP Advisory board member, National Organic Standards Board member, former board member of the National Young Farmers Coalition.
  • JM Fortier farmer, teacher, and author of The Market Gardener: A Successful Grower’s Handbook for Small-Scale Organic Farming.
  • Dr. Tyrone Hayes American biologist and professor of Integrative Biology at University of California, Berkeley known for his research findings concluding that the herbicide atrazine is an endocrine disruptor that demasculinizes and feminizes male frogs.
  • Anne Ross farm and food policy analyst for Cornucopia Institute best known for her extensive work with John Bobbe trying to stop import fraud in organic.
  • Alan Lewis Alan navigates government affairs and food and agriculture policy for Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage, a health food store chain operating more than 140 stores in 19 states. Alan speaks frequently on issues of organic integrity across the country. He spoke at last year’s symposium on the serious challenges in the organic supply chain. He serves on the Real Organic Project Standards Board.
  • Hugh Kent Certified Real Organic Project farmer from Florida, Hugh spoke movingly last year about the plight of soil producers as they compete against hydroponic production in the wholesale market.
  • Dr. Linley Dixon Linley holds a Ph.D. in Plant Pathology that earlier led to jobs with the USDA and as chief scientist at the Cornucopia Institute. She is an organic farmer from Colorado and is also the Associate Director of the Real Organic Project. She has traveled all over America inspecting organic farms for ROP.
  • Dave Chapman Dave is a longtime organic farmer from Vermont. He has been an active leader in the movement to protect organic integrity. He has spoken many times on these issues. He has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, VPR, Morning Edition, BBC World, Patagonia’s The Cleanest Line, Boston Globe, as well as many newspapers, radio shows, blogs and podcasts. Dave is the Executive Director of the Real Organic Project.

We will also get to hear from many real organic farmers in short clips of ROP Know Your Farmer videos.

We hope to challenge ourselves in the sessions. There will be a single track of speakers, sometimes TED-style, sometimes on a panel. We will cover the broad range of topics together, including the success of real organic farmers, failures and hopes for our government, the paradigm shift from conventional agriculture to real organic, the later paradigm shift from real organic to industrial organic, failures of the supply chain, the search for labor and racial justice in farming, and finally the challenges of opposing the corporate behemoths that seek to control our world. We will give voice to the loyal opposition, to the rebel alliance, to the forgotten. 

In an effort to bring in farmers who cannot always afford to show up, several generous donors have offered a matching scholarship fund of $25,000. Please donate to our Adopt A Farmer program to help us bring in under-represented farmers from all over the country.  For larger gifts to the fund, a mailed check is best.

Real Organic Project 82 Wilson Rd. East Thetford, VT 05043

Likewise, if you would like to help support this symposium, please contact us. Most of the speakers are coming without charge, but there are many expenses for such an event! 

Please mark these dates in your calendar and come to Hanover, New Hampshire next April 3 and 4.

This will be an important gathering. Don’t miss it!



2019 Real Organic Project Symposium:
March 2, 2019 at Dartmouth College, 9am – 5pm.

Hosted by the Real Organic Project and the Dartmouth Sustainability Office, with talks by:

Eliot Coleman

Keynote “Defining Organic Farming”

Anne Biklé

Keynote “Soil Health and Human Health. Forever Bound”

Dave Mortensen

“The State Of Organic Farming; A Scientist’s Perspective”

Jean-Paul Courtens

– Roxbury Farm – “What have we learned? Healthy Soils for a Healthy Climate”

Emily Oakley

“Working Toward a Low-Input Organic Vegetable Farm”

Linley Dixon

“60 Pilot Farms of the Real Organic Project- What Happens Next”

Onika Abraham

– “Organic Soil Farming In New York City”

Francis Thicke

“Ecology as a Model for Real Organic Farming”

Harriet Behar

“Building an Inclusive Message. How To Embrace Rather Than Alienate”

Jay Feldman

“My Time on the National Organic Standards Board and Why the Real Organic Project Is Critical”

Alan Lewis

“Taking their hands off the easy button: Why retail stores all look alike and how ROP can stop it”

Caitlin Frame

– The Milkhouse Farm- “Real Organic Dairy Farming in Maine”

Cameron Molberg

– Greener Pastures Chicken Farm – “Pasture Based Poultry and Domestic Grain in Texas”

Paul Muller

– Full Belly Farm- “400 acres, 3 generations, and 34 years later. The Story of California’s Most Prominent Organic Pioneers and Why Real Organic Matters”

Hugh Kent

– “The Reversal Of Organic Progress”

Dave Chapman

“The Real Organic Project After One Year. Why Were We Created and Where Are We Heading?”