Each year, we honor farmer, community, and business leaders who serve as examples for advancing sustainable agriculture through innovation and collaboration. I’m pleased to share this year’s award recipients.
Whether commissioning a Pennsylvania agriculture strategic plan, launching the Pennsylvania Farm Bill, or serving on the USDA’s Equity Commission Subcommittee on Agriculture, Secretary Russell Redding steadfastly serves Pennsylvania’s farmers. Through the PA Farm Bill, he has overseen one of the largest expansions of agricultural services and programming in Pennsylvania’s history. The Farm Bill provides resources that touch on numerous sustainable agriculture priorities, for all farmers in our Commonwealth, including recognizing the vital role farmers can have in mitigating climate change.
Secretary Redding takes time to listen to farmers and forwards the changes they want to see through the state’s evolving support for agriculture in the Commonwealth. As the NEASDA chair, his leadership sets a high bar and expectation for his peers. Since 2015, urban agriculture funding has been included in the PA Farm Bill, before many other states were really even paying attention to urban ag. At every turn, he emphasizes the importance of diversity in agriculture and ensures everyone has a voice at the table and matters in the field. At the Department, he launched a committee that promotes an inclusive working environment and we look forward to seeing how he forwards an even more inclusive and diverse team, now that he has been asked to serve again as Secretary under, now, a third Administration.
I was honored to serve as Secretary Redding’s Deputy for two years and we regularly engaged around his commitment to examine and promote ways for conventional and organic farmers to coexist. We didn’t always agree, but I never doubted his desire to make agriculture a place for everyone. We’ve been thrilled that the Secretary hired a special assistant to focus on workforce development, and helped expand the state’s prioritization of agriculture apprenticeships. We are grateful for all the ways he looks for opportunities to improve working conditions for farmworkers, the viability of farming as a livelihood, and the overt support for sustainable agriculture through his voice and his example.
Ash Richards is Urban Agriculture Director at Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, managing the Farm Philly Program and the City’s first Urban Agriculture Plan Growing from the Root. Through their work, they systematically identify and address issues and challenges in Philadelphia facing the urban ag community including land access, education, and resources.
Pasa board member Jessica Moore shared, “Ash Richards led a democratic- and community-minded process to create the Urban Ag Strategic Plan that is not only an invaluable roadmap for Philadelphia but is a needed resource to many other aligned organizations. Pasa among them, these organizations and the people they serve benefit from the plan’s ability to address challenges and support urban growers and organizations in forwarding substantive change to historically inequitable systems.”
Richards’ work supports the self-reliance and determination of residents to grow and produce their own food and sits at the nexus of policy, planning, public services/goods, and civic engagement. They have worked for the City of Philadelphia since 2011, and prior to their role at Parks and Recreation, Ash worked for the City Planning Commission doing comprehensive and place-based planning. They also worked for the Philadelphia Water Department’s Office of Watersheds doing green stormwater infrastructure projects. They have served as a member of the Philadelphia Food Policy Advisory Council (FPAC) since 2013 and as co-chair of the FPAC Urban Agriculture Sub-Committee since 2016.
We are grateful for their service to the sustainable agriculture community and the many growers and their neighbors whose lives are directly impacted by Ash and their unwavering dedication and commitment to an equitable and flourishing future Philadelphia food system.
Wild for Salmon, run by Jenn and Steve Kurian, provides a wild-caught, sustainably harvested source of protein. While their product is unique to the Pasa community, Jenn and Steve’s commitment to environmental stewardship, community-focused product sales to customers at their Bloomsburg store, local farmers markets, CSA’s, coops, buying clubs, grocery stores, and online, Wild for Salmon is a shining example of an ethical business model that builds a better world and is emblematic of Pasa’s community of farmers and food advocates.
The world-renowned Bristol Bay fishery, where Wild for Salmon fishes, is a well-managed, sustainably run fishery where the annual run of sockeye salmon continues to increase every year, reaching a record of 75 million salmon in 2022! Wild for Salmon now donates a portion of its annual profits to help sustain that fishery for the next generation and has been active in opposing an open pit mine slated for development within its pristine watershed.
Farmers John and Aimee Good at the Good Farm CSA in Lehigh County, who first met Jenn and Steve at the Pasa Conference nearly 20 years ago and have worked with them ever since, estimate that members of their CSA community have consumed approximately 5,000 pounds of salmon during their partnership with Wild for Salmon! That’s a lot of sustainably harvested protein.
Since their first fishing trip to Alaska in 2001, when the Kurians froze and smoked a few pounds of salmon they brought home in coolers to share with their community, up until today where Wild for Salmon provides sustainable fishery products throughout Pennsylvania and ships nationally, they have remained steadfast and valued supporters of the sustainable agriculture and fishery community.