August News
August 24, 2019

Let’s start a good conversation

By Heidi Marttila-Losure


As I dive into this new role as editor and designer for NPSAS publications, I want to put forward three questions as a focus for this work.
The first is the most basic: What do we, as people who care about sustainable agriculture, need to know so we can do our own work better and also help build sustainable food systems in our society?
This is the traditional work of a news publication, and what The Germinator has done—sharing information that helps readers become informed so they can make better decisions about the issues that affect their own lives and the condition of society as a whole. That’s the kind of work I did when I worked at daily newspapers and while I was running Dakotafire, the magazine I co-founded. This is important, meaningful work, and I’m honored that I’ll be able to fill that role for NPSAS. But I also think that we can take it up a level and do more.
This is my second focus question: How can we become better connected to one another?
This is a vital concern for our time. It’s a little strange that this should be the case, as technology has given us the potential to be connected to nearly anyone instantly. Yet deeper connection eludes us. Loneliness is described as “a new public health crisis,” as a recent article in The Hill put it. Loneliness “raises the risk of premature death by up to 50 percent—making it a health hazard at least as significant as smoking and alcohol and more so than obesity,” according to the article.
That’s the effect on a personal level. On an organizational level, NPSAS, with much of its membership scattered across the countryside, has a challenge in creating a community across distance. Those who care about sustainable agriculture are often alone in their places, where most of the agricultural land is managed conventionally. This feeling of being alone and surrounded by others who don’t think as you do can be exhausting and can prevent people from acting. That means less happens in advancing sustainable food systems than could happen if everyone felt empowered to act.
Once a year, NPSAS does a phenomenal job of overcoming that distance, with hundreds gathering for its winter conference to catch up, laugh, and learn together. Summer events help to sustain those connections, though a much smaller group can get away from their own work during the growing season.
I want to see if The Germinator, possibly with the addition of online or social media presence, could help to feed conversations that connect us to one another all year long.
And that gets to my last question: What might we accomplish together?
This movement is growing. Sustainably produced food is in demand, and it’s possible to imagine sustainable food systems that are strong and vibrant enough to create ripple effects of meaningful change throughout our society. How can NPSAS help to make that future happen? How can NPSAS serve its members so they can do better work, and how can its members serve one another? How can we work together to accomplish more than we as individuals could by working alone?
If you have answers to any of those questions, I really want to hear about them. I welcome your informal feedback as well as letters intended for publication in The Germinator. I hope to hear from enough of you to put together a special section in the fall issue with answers to the questions above, and we can build the conversation from there.
I’m looking forward to hearing from you!
Have a response to one of the questions in this article? Please share and help feed the conversation! Send responses to