Oxford to host Sustainability Conference

By NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – With sessions as varied as food policy, raising one’s own food and tours of sustainable homes and farms, the fourth annual Gaining Ground Conference for Sustainable Living will be held in Oxford, March 1-3.
Registration is open to anyone with an interest in sustainability. Early registration, which ends Wednesday, is $85.
This year’s conference is titled “Setting the Table.”
“Basically, Mississippi buys about 80 percent of what we eat, and we export about 80 percent of what we grow,” said Johnny Wray, president of Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of Mississippi, who for 16 years led the Disciples of Christ denomination’s efforts for disaster relief and sustainability.
“Clearly we have the capacity to feed ourselves,” said Wray, who retired to raise pasture-raised beef on his family’s Clay County farm. “There really are a lot of folks in the state – clearly a minority, but plenty of people – interested in these kinds of issues.”
Friday’s session will focus on promoting healthy food policy – from the perspective of both policy makers and food producers – within the state. Mark Winne, author of “Food Rebels, Guerilla Gardeners and Smart-Cookin’ Mamas” will keynote the first day, and scheduled participants will range from growers to legislators and Mississippi Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith.
Saturday’s multiple sessions offer a host of hands-on opportunities in four strands – “Nourishing Kitchen,” “Home Grown,” “Smart Living” and “Make and Take.” Mary Berry – farmer, winemaker, president of the Berry Center and daughter of poet and author Wendell Berry – will deliver Saturday’s keynote address.
Sunday morning’s tours include energy-efficient homes, sustainable farms and the University of Mississippi’s Medicinal Plant Garden.
The Conference is a creation of Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of Mississippi, founded by Mike and Alison Buehler of Starkville.
“We were increasingly interested in issues of sustainability when we were having children,” Alison Buehler said. “We got interested in their health and what they were putting in their bodies and whether they would have enough resources when they were having children to have a decent life.
“Just being hungry for a community to share those thoughts with, we knew there had to be other people in Mississippi thinking about it,” she said.
While Gaining Ground takes position on specific sustainability issues, it is otherwise apolitical.
“Even my husband and I don’t agree on anything political,” Alison Buehler said. “But we can agree on a lot of stuff when it comes down to living wisely. I think because we’ve drawn that line and mean it, we’ve got vegetarians and hunters and Tea Partiers and Occupy Wall Streeters.”
To register or for more information, visit www.ggsim.org.
errol.castens@journalinc.com