A seventh-generation farmer who penned a New York Times bestseller about his transformation to organic and sustainable operations will visit Finger Lakes Community College later this month to close out the ninth season of the George M. Ewing Canandaigua Forum speaker series.
Forrest Pritchard will give a talk titled “Sustainable Agriculture: Gaining Ground and Growing Tomorrow” at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 26 in the Student Center Auditorium at the main campus, 3325 Marvin Sands Drive, Canandaigua.
Pritchard has authored three books. The first, “Gaining Ground, A Story of Farmer’s Markets, Local Food and Saving the Family Farm,” made the New York Times Bestseller list, was named a top read by Publishers Weekly, The Washington Post and NPR’s “The Splendid Table.” His second book, “Growing Tomorrow,” offered a behind-the-scenes visit with 18 sustainable farmers from across the county. His latest book, “Start Your Farm,” was co-written with Ellen Polishuk.
“People often say that local, organic food is expensive, but never take the time to understand why conventional food is so cheap,” he said. “From New York family dairy farms, to our food system at large, we’re learning how our food choices have major consequences. We’ll discuss how local food impacts us all, and how to enact positive change.”
He grew up in the Shenandoah Valley on his grandparents’ diversified farm. After college in the mid-1990s, he took over the family farm ⎯ primarily growing GMO corn and soybeans ⎯ hoping to make the land profitable. On harvest day, when five tractor-trailer loads of grain reaped a paycheck of $18.16, he realized he had to change course. The following season, he devoted himself to organic and sustainable production, raising free-range cattle, pigs, sheep, goats and chickens on pasture.
His Virginia farm, Smith Meadows, was one of the first “grass-finished” farms in the country and sells at farmers’ markets in the Washington, D.C. area. Grass-finished refers to animals that have only been fed grass.
Pritchard will sign copies of his three books – which will be available for purchase – before the event, starting at 2:30 p.m.
The FLCC talk will be moderated by Lori Vail, assistant professor of English at FLCC. She grew up in a small, rural community in Texas and lived for a number of years on a cattle ranch. She also lived in Seattle, where she started an urban farm in with dairy goats, chickens, rabbits, vegetable and herb gardens and fruit trees.
Launched in 2011, the speaker series is named for the late George M. Ewing Sr., the longtime editor and publisher of the Daily Messenger, later to become Messenger Post Media. The forum is funded in part with an endowment from the Ewing family as well as support from Canandaigua National Bank & Trust, Wegmans and FLCC.
Event tickets are $25 each or free at the door with a current student ID, provided the event has not sold out.
Tickets can be ordered by phone at (585) 398-0239 or purchased online at gmeforum.org. Forum organizers always welcome sponsors. Donors receive tickets, admission to receptions and other benefits. For more information on sponsorship opportunities, contact Paul Bringewatt at (585) 396-0759.