Pre-conferences - 2017


From now through November 1 at midnight you can get a ticket to any Pre-conference at 20% off. Register now.

On Thursday, November 9 conference participants are heading into the Chesapeake region for a special inside look at some of the area's challenging problems and creative solutions, as told by the people transforming the Maryland food system. Each event takes place on Thursday afternoon and requires an additional fee. You can purchase tickets when you register for the rest of the conference.

Youth Advocacy Day

The event will include educational activities around food justice, advocacy, and farm bill legislation; leadership training and confidence building activities focused around specific legislation; and an afternoon on Capitol Hill meeting with congressmen and/or staffers that deal with food systems and agriculture.  We will conclude with a debrief before heading back to Baltimore to join in on Thursday evening's pre-conference activities.

All costs for this event are covered, but we are limiting participants to just 20 youth to optimize the experience for those in attendance.  Thus each participating organization can only bring a maximum of 4 youth.

To apply for your youth to participate, we would like to know:

  • How many youth you would like to bring (up to 4);
  • Where your organization is located (and which cities your youth participants will be coming from);
  • The age range of your youth participants (limited to ages 14-25);
  • A contact person who will chaperone and take the lead in ensuring that your youth get to and from the event venue. For groups bringing youth under 18, we would like at least one chaperone to stay with their group.
  • And finally, although it is not a requirement that your youth are engaged in policy work, we would like to know how your youth participants have engaged in policy prior to this opportunity to help us formulate discussions and the program for the day.

All of the above questions are in this online form and the deadline to complete the form is Friday, October 20.  

If you have questions about this opportunity, please call Rebekah at (716) 359-3082 or email

This event takes place on Thursday, November 9 from 9am to 5pm in DC (not including travel time). Participants will meet at the United Methodist Building, 100 Maryland Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002 or travel from Baltimore together. Roundtrip train fare from Baltimore to DC day-of and lunch are included for all youth applicants. The pre-session organizers will be in touch with more details after your application has been accepted.


Jessy Gill, World Farmers

Dominique N. Jones, 11th Street Bridge Park

Lorette Piccano, Rural Coalition

Immaculate Nyaigoti, World Farmers

Rebekah Williams, Massachusetts Avenue Project


Becoming Newsworthy: A Communications Bootcamp for Those with a Story to Tell — Hanover B

Picture this: a desk full of paperwork, a phone ringing incessantly, a computer screen showing an ever-rising number of unread emails. Perhaps this office belongs to a staffer of your Congress Member, perhaps it is the desk of a local agriculture reporter or the editor of a national news media outlet – if so, how are you planning to break through the noise and get your message out there?

This pre-conference communications bootcamp will bring together experts in food and agriculture that can help you craft, refine, and deliver your message to media, policymakers, and other key influencers. Don't get lost in the shuffle – learn to become a more effective storyteller and keep your messages out of the "unread" pile for good. The session will be held from 1pm-4pm at Lord Baltimore Hotel.

Cost: $25


Reana Kovalcik is the Associate Director for Communications and Development for National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC). She supports NSAC’s policy and grassroots efforts by translating challenging policy language into digestible communications and by providing the development support needed for robust fundraising. Reana grew up in the Chicago area and earned her BA in Urban Policy from De Paul University. She later moved to NYC, where earned her MA in Urban Policy Analysis from The New School for Public Engagement. After graduating, Reana served as Legislative Aide for Food Policy under former New York City Council Member –and current Manhattan Borough President– Gale Brewer, with whom she helped develop NYC’s first package of local food sourcing legislation in 2011.


Betsy Barrett  is the Government Relations and Communications Director at Food Policy Action. Betsy leads Food Policy Action’s advocacy and communications efforts, broadening the impact of the organization’s political and policy programs. Before FPA, Betsy worked in the private sector on communications, marketing and event planning, serving as a vice president in the strategic communications practice at The Glover Park Group and communications director for the Internet Association. Betsy began her political, food policy and communications career on capitol hill as a senior advisor and communications director for Dean of the U.S. House of Representatives John D. Dingell and Congressman Vic Snyder. Betsy is a native Arkansan and graduated from the University of Arkansas. She resides in Washington, D.C.

Matt Herrick is senior vice president for Story Partners public affairs in Washington, D.C. He leads the agency’s growing Eat, Drink +Farm practice, which helps clients navigate issues in food, agriculture, nutrition and natural resources. Before joining Story Partners, Matt led communications for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Oxfam America. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the College of the Holy Cross and a master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications.



Kate Cox is staff at The New Food Economy, which she joined after several years covering the American aging experience for radio and text as a freelance health reporter. She is a contributor to The Nation and Huffington Post and co-created and produced Off the Radar, a travel TV show and blog about two women on a mission to see the world on $1k.




Susan Able is the owner and publisher of Edible DC and serves as the magazine’s Editor in Chief. Before starting Edible DC, she was a management consultant with over twenty years of experience in developing the capacity of organizations to communicate and develop high performing teams. Susan grew up in Indiana where she was in 4H and competed in baking, BBQ and dog obedience. She lived in Boston and Rhode Island for a long time where she was a nonprofit executive, writer and built butterfly gardens. She now lives in DC and Annapolis, still builds habitats for pollinators and visits as many farm markets in the DMV as she can.




Joe Fassler is The New Food Economy's senior editor. In 2017, he was among 10 food journalists selected to be a 11th Hour Food and Farming Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. A longtime contributor to, where his work has been a finalist for the James Beard Foundation Award in Journalism, he lives in Brooklyn, NY.



Jenny Hopkinson covers agriculture and food policy for POLITICO and POLITICO Pro. Before joining POLITICO, she spent three years at Inside Washington Publishers reporting on the EPA with a focus on chemicals policy, pesticides and water issues. Prior to that, Hopkinson was a reporter for The (Salisbury, Md.) Daily Times where she followed local governments as they tackled falling tax revenues and stagnating rural development.




Beyond Charity: How Baltimore's Grassroots Community Is Growing Its Own Food System

Building a just and sustainable food system is about much more than food access. Across Baltimore, residents and community organizations are using community assets and traditions to build a new food system for their neighborhoods - one that honors their skills and is tailored to meet their social, cultural and economic needs. Join us on this tour of urban agriculture and community food resources, and learn how creative and committed Baltimoreans are building a grassroots community food system from the ground up. Limit: 60 people.

The tour bus will depart at 12 noon from the Lord Baltimore Hotel. The tour bus will return to the hotel at 6:15pm. Lunch will be served on the tour.

Cost: $40


Reverend Dr. Heber Brown, III of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church and NESAWG Board Member and Eric Jackson of Black Yield Institute will discuss Black food sovereignty efforts in Baltimore in the context of a city beleaguered by generational injustices. The work of the Black Church Food Security Network and Black Yield Institute will be highlighted.

Warren and LaVette Blue run The Greener Garden, an urban farm located in the Hamilton area of northeast Baltimore City and owned by farmers. They have one of the largest urban farms in the city.

Deacon Bill Roberts of New Creation Christian Church will speak about DeBorah’s Garden. This seven-year-old garden is lead by Deacon Bill Roberts who is a trained herbalist.

Elder C.W. Harris of Strength To Love 2 Farm will speak about the Farm's goals: provide dignity-verifying employment opportunities to ex-offenders, beautify areas of blight within Sandtown-Winchester, and make affordable, healthy, and sustainable food available for the residents of Sandtown-Winchester and the greater Baltimore area.




Food & the Bay: An Ecosystem Experience

Join us on a 4-hour boat tour of the Chesapeake Bay! The tour, conducted by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Baltimore Harbor Education Team, offers a hands-on learning experience where we explore the connection between the Chesapeake Bay watershed and the Mid-Atlantic regional food system. We'll talk about farming and fisheries, try out water quality testing - and even do a little fishing. Tour will occur rain or shine. Limit: 25 people.

The group will depart from the Lord Baltimore Hotel at 12 noon to take public transit to the Baltimore Aquarium. The group will return to the hotel by 5:30pm. Lunch will be provided.

Cost: $60


Ben Carver, Baltimore Harbor Environmental Education Program Captain

Claire Cambardella, Baltimore Harbor Environmental Education Program Manager








Food Safety Modernization Act Exemptions and What You Need To Know — Charles room 

Compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act regulations presents a new challenge for farmers and small scale processors in local and regional food markets. This session will review the Federally mandated exemptions and exclusions available to produce growers and processors under the Food Safety Modernization Act.  Participants will learn where various operations fall under the rule and what records FDA is currently mandating for compliance. We will also discuss the status of FSMA implementation by state agencies and how that may affect exempt operations as well as resources available to assist with improving on farm food safety.

The session will be of value to farmers, small scale processors, farmer co-ops, food hubs and the organizations that work with them. It will be held from 2pm-5pm at the Lord Baltimore Hotel.

Cost: $25


Vickie Smith is a Food Safety Specialist for New England Farmers Union. Vickie retired from the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture Markets and Food, Regulatory Services Division where she developed NH's organic certification program, she has conducted organic inspections on a wide variety of operations and also performed USDA-GAP Audits. She is a Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) Lead Trainer.

Roger Noonan is President of the New England Farmers Union. He operates a diversified organic farm with his family in New Hampshire and is a PSA Trainer.