Learning Communities Project
433 Chestnut Street, Berea, KY 40403

December 22, 1999
Press Contact: Michael Straus (415) 663-8343
Press Contact: Hal Hamilton (606) 986-5336


The Learning Communities Project (LCP) is sponsoring a new, innovative seminar series focusing on agriculture and leadership training. The program, called Taproot, is the first of its kind in the U.S. and is aimed at providing the tools for individuals to make concrete change in their communities, especially in linking farms, the environment and rural development.

The first Taproot workshop, held in Santa Fe, NM, addressed Multi-Functional (M-F) Agriculture. This concept is widely used throughout Europe, but still relatively unknown in the United States. M-F agriculture deals with the numerous ways in which agriculture contributes to our society by producing healthy food, clean water, wildlife habitat and regional economic opportunities.

Taproot participants came from as far away as Costa Rica and Sweden. Representing a broad professional spectrum, they analyzed regional programs, and developed specific skills to increase their effectiveness of project and community leaders.

According to Jim French, an agricultural communications specialist, "The workshop prompted me to move forward with ideas to establish a Watershed Friendly label program." French is also a rancher in the Ninnescah River watershed that provides water for the city of Wichita, Kansas. "The concept promotes the idea that populations within the watershed might pay a premium to family farmers who are using practices that protect and conserve the water residents use each day," French added.

French attributed his inspiration to presentations made by other participants, such as the support for farm innovation in the Catskills watershed project for New York City. French also learned from seminar descriptions of programs implemented in Western Europe. In Southern Germany, for example, water authorities pay farmers to convert to organic practices, saving money that would otherwise be spent cleaning pesticides and nitrates from the water.

"We are very excited that we have the opportunity to support this innovative project - a project led by some of this country's premier leaders in the sustainable agricultural arena," commented Dr. Oran Hesterman of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, a funder of the LCP and Taproot seminars. "We are hopeful that, through this process of learning and leadership development, the creation and spread of a more sustainable approach to the food system will be much more rapid," he added.

Planned workshop topics for Spring 2000 include the World Trade Organization, Multi-Functional Agriculture, and Watershed management. For more information, call (606) 986-5336, or visit

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