Join us & be inspired by our 2017 Featured Speakers!
Each year, we work very hard to find unique and compelling individuals to speak to our audience. We look for innovative and enthusiastic people who will offer new views and push our audience members to see their work in a new light.
All keynote presentations are included in conference registrations. We also offer a Keynote Only pass, which allows you to attend a keynote session and peruse the TradeShow and Auction. Workshops, meals and other conference activities are not included, but meals may be purchased separately.
Opening Keynoter, Friday February 3rd
Janisse Ray is a writer, activist, and naturalist who has authored five books of literary nonfiction and a collection of eco-poetry. She holds an MFA from the University of Montana, and has been awarded two honorary doctorates, one from Unity College in Maine and the other from LaGrange College in Georgia. In 2015 she was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame. Her work has been translated and published in France and Turkey. She lives in rural southern Georgia.
Her first book of creative nonfiction, Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, is a memoir about growing up on a junkyard in the ruined longleaf pine ecosystem of the Southeast. Besides being a plea to protect and restore the glorious pine flatwoods of the South, the book looks hard at family, mental illness, poverty, and fundamentalist religion. Essayist Wendell Berry called the book “well done and deeply moving.” Anne Raver of The New York Times said of Janisse Ray, “The forests of the South find their Rachel Carson.”
Janisse’s other books are: Wild Card Quilt: Taking a Chance on Home, Pinhook: Finding Wholeness in a Fragmented Land, Drifting into Darien, A House of Branches, The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food.
Janisse attempts to live a simple, sustainable life on a farm in southern Georgia, where she is an organic gardener, seed saver, tender of farm animals, and slow-food cook. She lives with her husband and her adolescent daughter Raven Waters.
She lectures widely on nature, community, agriculture, wildness, sustainability and the politics of wholeness. She is at work on a book about her long-time friendship with the late Georgia naturalist Milton Hopkins, as well as a collection of essays about rural farm life in the 21st Century.
PASAbilities Keynoter, Saturday February 4th
Gabe Brown is a farmer and soil health pioneer at Brown’s Ranch. At Brown’s Ranch, they believe that faith, family and working with the natural resources that God has provided allows for a meaningful life. They enjoy using these resources to regenerate landscapes for a sustainable future.
Brown’s Ranch is located just east of Bismarck, ND. Gabe and his wife Shelly purchased the ranch from Shelly’s parents in 1991 and have grown the operation to 5000 acres of owned and leased land. Their son, Paul, returned to the ranch after graduation from North Dakota State University and became a partner in the operation. Daughter, Kelly, lives and works in Fargo, ND and returns home to help whenever possible.
The Browns believe in and practice Holistic Management, a part of which is farming and ranching in nature’s image. They strive to solve problems in a natural and sustainable way. Improving soil health is a priority and no-till farming has been practiced since 1993. A diverse cropping strategy, which includes cover and companion crops are used. The ranch has eliminated the use of synthetic fertilizers, fungicides, and pesticides. They use minimal herbicide and are striving to eliminate it. They do not use GMOs or glyphosate. Their ever evolving grazing strategy allows most of their pastures a recovery period of over 360 days. These strategies have allowed the health of the soil, the mineral and water cycles to greatly improve. In other words, the natural resources have benefited. This results in increased production, profit, and a higher quality of life. They are moving towards sustainability for not only their but future generations as well.