|My veggie garden is a lot smaller than your average farm|
Three days of workshops from November 22 - 24 covered everything from debates on tractors v. hand tools, to seed collecting, fruit trees, starting a grass farm, and permaculture. Some of the workshops were clearly geared toward organic farming operations but there were a number of workshops that intrigued me enough to buy a ticket.
I took a Friday afternoon off from work and made my way down to the conference centre, finding a seat in a presentation by Dr. Andrew Hammermeister titled The Origin of Soil and its Properties. Soil science is noted to be a relatively young field of study but as most of us gardeners know, soil is our most important commodity. Although the technical terminology of this session bogged my brain down at times I must say it was a joy to listen to a presenter who was so clearly enamoured with his topic. My only complaint with this session was that it should have been twice as long. Dr. Hammermeister's interest in soil was infectious and he clearly had a lot more to say on the subject, even having to skip over parts of his talk as he was running out of time. Soil ties into everything we do, whether we have a farm or a flower garden. It's such a basic stepping stone in our human survival and I would have loved to spend more time discussing it.
|Cilantro gone to seed in my garden|
One thing that struck me during the conference was the amount of academics involved in farming now. Back when my mom lived on a farm in Saskatchewan you had a lot of kids who helped out. Farming was primarily taught, hands on, generation to generation. When the kids grew up you parcelled off some land to them and you all kept working. At this conference I was hearing about the struggles for new farmers trying to acquire land to farm, money to purchase tools for the job, and school loans for degrees in agriculture and sciences. It takes a lot these days to be a farmer. You need a working knowledge of economics, agriculture, machinery, and animal husbandry just to name a few. The result though is that the people who are farming are really passionate about what they do.
Unfortunately two workshops only proved to be a teaser for me and now I'm thinking about next year. ACORN conferences are held each year in the atlantic provinces. If you have the time to attend I would highly recommend them. Despite my trepidation that I would feel out of place at the conference I found instead that all of us were there because we share the same basic principles of caring about our environment and our food. That sort of setting isn't such a bad place to hang out.