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by Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – Two people with deep knowledge of food and farming will keynote “Setting the Table,” Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of Mississippi’s fourth annual conference, this weekend in Oxford.

Mark Winne, a longtime activist and advocate for community food system issues, is the author of “Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty” and “Food Rebels, Guerilla Gardeners, and Smart Cookin’ Mamas: Fighting Back in an Age of Industrial Agriculture.”

Winne supports public control of food policy.

“Private charities and local farms are only part of the solution,” he wrote in his second book. “As good food citizens, we need to speak up for policies and practices that promote a just and sustainable food system for all.”

Mary Berry, the daughter of author Wendell Berry, is executive director of the Berry Center in New Castle, Ky. The Center’s work aims largely at economics and permaculture that not only preserve farmland but farmers, too.

“We’re losing farmers in the middle,” Mary Berry said, noting that both tiny farms and giant ones are growing in number. “We have overfarmed places, but where I live – and I suspect in Mississippi, too – we also have places that are underfarmed.

“We have to stop being idealistic – or flat stupid – about what it takes to run a successful farm. We have to understand what farming is that does as little harm as possible, that provides an economy that farmers can live in and plan their next year on.”

Friday’s Food Summit will be at the Powerhouse Community Arts Center. Sessions will focus on health, local food systems, Winne’s look at food policy, local and regional economies and partnerships and Berry’s “Living Well without Doing Harm.”

On Saturday the Sustainability Conference a few blocks west to Oxford-University United Methodist Church, will have additional presentations by Berry and Winne. Nearly two dozen hands-on workshops will offer information from seed saving and preserving the harvest to natural homemade cleaners and herbal remedies.

Sunday morning’s optional tours include farms, gardens and sustainably built homes.

For more information or to register, visit www.ggsim.org.

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