2017 OEFFA Conference Highlights

By Claire Hoppens

This year the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association hosted their annual conference in Dayton, an update we highlighted in the winter issue with, "Things to Love About the 2017 OEFFA Conference." We planned a few pitstops around the conference too, including some featured in the winter installation of "Worth the Trip."

Below, find some highlights and takeaways from our day in Dayton. 

New space + session format
OEFFA's new arrangement in the Dayton Convention Center was spacious and well organized. Workshops were spread across multiple floors, each taking a uniform 1.5 hour format for the first time. We stopped into a session with the Ohio Food Policy Network called "Mapping the Vision for Ohio's Food System" and one hosted by OSU educator Mike Hogan on "Understanding Food Insecurity in the U.S." 

Mike's presentation garnered insightful questions and feedback from the audience, including questions about food scarcity in the presence of high obesity rates, the true viability of urban agriculture and limitations to its growth (land scarcity, Mike says, is the #1 threat), and individuals or groups driving innovation in central Ohio. 

One such individual, OSU student Maggie Griffen, was awarded the inaugural President's Prize by the University for her UNITY Fridge concept, which will establish community gardens in food deserts and place refrigerators outdoors where members of the community can take fresh produce. We hope to cover Maggie's initiative and its progress later in the year.

Workshops fell into categories like Gardening, Business & Marketing, Begin Farming, and People & Policy, with featured workshop tracks to Begin Farming and on Urban Agriculture. 

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Powerful keynote speakers
Robyn O’Brien’s keynote address was moving, peppered with staggering data and rooted in personal experience with food allergies and safety. Robyn’s youngest child suffered an allergic reaction after eating a seemingly routine family breakfast, a moment that served as a turning point in Robyn’s life and career. She’s devoted herself to researching not just food allergies but the entire American food system: it's history, recent reliance on genetically modified ingredients, unfair marketing to consumers and children, and real, alarming links between what we're eating and the increase in childhood asthma, autism, allergies and ADHD.

Robyn shared her experiences taking on the system and its players and what she uncovered about the toxins in our food. She noted that between 1997 and 2007, there was a 265% increase in hospitalizations for allergic reactions, according to the CDC. And that of children born in the year 2000, 1 in 3 caucasian children will become insulin dependent at some point in their life. Numbers are closer to 1 in 2 for minority children. 

"We have to talk about this," she repeated. "What are we waiting for?"

Robyn's book, The Unhealthy Truth, sold out by the time she greeted conference-goers, "reveals the alarming relationship between the manipulation of our food and both the increase in dangerous allergies in our children as well as the increase in cancers in our families—and offers a road map to healthy living," according to her website

Read more about Robyn's crusade, watch her Ted Talk and learn more about her Allergy Kids Foundation at robynobrien.com

Read our Q&A with second keynote speaker, farmer, educator and activist Jim Riddle. Or visit an article from cleveland.com about Jim Riddle's efforts to meet the Trump administration in the middle. 

Local fare
It wasn't all business over the weekend. We made time for a few food and beverage-centric stops just outside the conference. 

Press Coffee Bar combines a light, airy environment with simple, well-made coffees.

Arepas & Co. has locations inside the 2nd Street Market, in Kettering and inside the former Wympee Diner in downtown Dayton, where we stopped in. The menu reflects a focus on Colombian comfort food including arepas, plantains, slow-braised meats and herbaceous sauces. Don't miss the yuka fries. 

The Century Bar is whiskey-focused and welcoming, anchored by a restored cherry-and-stained-glass-back bar dating back 1862. Choose from an expansive list of bourbons and other other liquors, guided by the staff's knowledge or an intriguing cocktail menu. Keep an eye out for an expansion coming soon.