As you read this I'm in State College, attending a pre-conference, all-day workshop of PASA's Farming for the Future annual conference. Today it's Weed School: Managing Through Identification and Mechanical Methods, and tomorrow I'll have another all-day workshop on The 21st Century Victory Garden: Growing Your Food and Energizing Your Community. Meanwhile, my husband will be attending the Hands-On IPM (integrated pest management) and Bio-Controls workshop. Then on Friday and Saturday the PASA conference proper begins. (PASA: that's the Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture.) One of the keynote addresses will be by Raj Patel, author of the book Stuffed and Starved, which discusses the paradox of a world with 850 million people starving alongside 1 billion overweight people. Should be infuriating, heartbreaking, and enlightening, all at the same time.
I'm looking forward to seeing people I've met at the conference in previous years. Oh! And the food at the conference is simply marvelous. I hardly need to think about packing food for the meals away from home. We get delicious breakfasts and lunches with each of our workshops, and the evening hors d'oeuvres tables, laden with products brought by member farmers, is always an incredible treat. Then there are the coupons and free samples from organic product companies that sponsor the event. I got a coupon for free shipping from Johnny's Seeds last year which I used when buying my broadfork; saved me a tidy sum. This conference has the best schwag! The benefit auction of all sorts of interesting gardening tools, and value-added products from member farms is always fun to browse through. Free live music on Thursday night. Networking opportunities with farmers and gardeners who live near me and follow sustainable crop management and humane animal husbandry. I enjoy seeing Pennsylvania's plain folk who mingle freely with us "English," but speak their Pennsylvania German among themselves. There will be a Pennsylvania cheese tasting by member farms on Friday night. Early morning yoga classes if I can get up in time for them. I'll probably meet a farmer who produces something sustainably that I'll want to start buying on a regular basis. I've arranged a meeting with an attending fellow member who will barter some of her compost worms for my bread. And these are all just the extras!
The hour-and-twenty-minute seminars of the conference itself are consistently informative and fascinating. I always play it somewhat by ear, but these are the seminars that I'm likely to attend:
Rural Pennsylvania's Energy Future
Using Organic Nutrient Sources & Interpreting Soil and Compost Analysis
How to Grow, Harvest, Manage, and Market Nut Crops
Specialized Techniques for Early Harvest of Field Grown Crops
Why and How to Create a Forest Buffer on Your Land to Protect Our Streams
Solar Electric Systems 201: Basics and Beyond
The Versatility of Small Grains: Food, Feed, Forage, Seed and Cover Crops
Pollinators, Predators & Plants: Building Landscapes to Attract Beneficial Insects
The Plight of the Honey Bees & How to Help Them Thrive
Year-Round Backyard Mini-Farming: Food with the Least Fossil Fuel and Footprint
I'll have to pick and choose among these, as some of them are scheduled concurrently. But don't these sound interesting? There are several dozen other choices that are less appealing to me that will no doubt be full of other attendees with different interests.
I always come home from the frozen wastes of State College in early February with a burning passion for the year's gardening and homesteading projects. It's like being able to swallow a motivation pill, once a year. It's all just SO exciting! Worth the money and the driving every year. This is definitely a garden-geek vacation.
I'll try to take some pictures that capture the wonderfulness of it all, to post when I return. Have a wonderful week everyone.