Grazing America's Texas

The American Grassfed Association’s (AGA) fourth annual conference will be held in Austin, November 1-3, and, according to Carrie Balkcom, executive director of AGA, will have something for everyone—inspiring speakers, field trips to local grassfed beef producers, and even a set of butchering seminars and chef demos expected to be so popular that pre-registration is required.

The spirit of the conference will be one of bridge building, says local host rancher Don Davis. “We want to educate the producer that what they’re raising is food. And educate the end-users about how that food is raised and how it can be used. You don’t go into the store and buy the middle of a tomato. We’ll be teaching people how to utilize the whole animal, because the producer raised the whole animal.”

An additional agenda at the conference will be an ongoing discussion of how to work with the USDA to expand existing regulations to limit animal confinement and supplementation, and support overall animal health and welfare. This is more than a moral imperative—AGA members have good reason to believe that beef produced this way just tastes better. Spreading that message to the public will be another key goal of the conference.

Another highly anticipated event is the American Food Traditions Picnic, hosted by the Renewing America’s Food Traditions Project (RAFT) and the Chef’s Collaborative, a national network of chefs, producers and educators working to build a more sustainable food supply. Though RAFT has held picnics all over the country as a way to expose chefs, foodies, and healthy-food consumers to local heirloom and heritage foods, this will be the first joint effort with the Chef’s Collaborative. The idea, says Leigh Belanger, program and communications manager of the Collaborative, is to leave the conference with “a full belly and an understanding of the food traditions of the region.” 

Gary Nabhan, founder of RAFT and director of the Center for Sustainable Environments at Northern Arizona University, sees the Austin conference as “a trial run, the first multi-city event we’re trying. Austin has a reputation for local produce, historic food traditions, and great chefs.”

Nabhan will speak at the conference, along with Linda Faillace, Jo Robinson, and chef legends Rick Bayless, Peter Hoffman, and Monica Pope, among others.

Attendees won’t be expected to learn on an empty stomach, either—the conference will kick off with an opening reception featuring local chefs making locally sourced specialities—and Whole Foods Market founder and CEO John Mackey as the keynote speaker.

Visit americangrassfed.org for registration information and fees.