Now to the biggest, best farming conference in the West!
Monterey Bay/Asilomar, EcoFarm Conference Jan 20-23
Before the conference started, we needed a place to stay for night or two before we were given our designated rooms on the conference grounds and were blessed with a place to stay beachside. (A big thanks to the Bakke family who made this possible.) There we rendezvoused with friend and farmer, Sergio, who stayed the night with us and who also was there to attend the conference for the first time.
We did get a chance in between raindrops to take a small walk along the beach which was nice.
The 2003 EcoFarm Conference is where Farmer D gave his very first urban homesteading presentation. Seven years later, we were back – to cover all that has happened here on the homestead. The topic was perfect: “Big Rewards from Small Spaces.”
Unfortunately, the rain just wouldn’t let up – just went where there was a break, another deluge would drench the conference grounds. Wave after wave of rain pelted the coast from the huge storm that covered the whole state of California.
So we couldn’t really enjoy walks on the beach (bummer) but instead spent most of our time indoors – talking with people at our booth in the Exhibit Hall, checking out a few talks, attending plenary sessions with Wes Jackson, Eliot Coleman and Frances Moore Lappé, taking part in the ever-fun seed swap (where we loaded up on more seeds) and hanging out in the dinning hall listening to some wonderful conversations about farm life.
At the farm conference, we met Chris of Chauffin Family Farm, who saw the film in Nevada City and invited us to visit their farm (will take a rain check on that, thank you!). Thanks, Chris, for the wonderful and engaging conversation – not to mention the jar of olive oil from your farm. You’ll definitely be hearing more from us!
Also, Frances Moore Lappé signed a copy of Diet for a Small Planet for us. On the shelf here on the urban homestead, we have an old and tattered copy from the 1970s, so now we have a new, autographed copy (sweet!). We brought greetings from John Robbins, who is long-time friends with Frances Moore Lappé. She and her daughter, Anna, also work together – yet another example of passing a legacy to the next generation.
Saturday morning was time for Farmer D’s Urban Homesteading presentation, which drew about 200 people to Merrill Hall, the main conference venue. (We didn’t check the Chapel so don’t know how many were there listening in to the live feed.) The presentation must have been a popular one because when we got to the desk to pick up a CD of the talk, the stack was all gone!
Farmer D opened the presentation with a screening of the ever-popular Homgrown Revolution. We don’t know quite what it is about this simple film-that-wasn’t-supposed-to-be-a-film. One of the EcoFarm vendors told us that her husband was in tears at the end of the film – it touches something deep down in people.
Farmer D then talked about what we had learned over the 20+ year urban homesteading experiment, especially when it came to front yard edible gardening (very timely with the bad PR some of these projects are getting – I’ll touch on that in a later post). Lots of people were taking detailed notes. He emphasized that
“Change happens slowly, but you must start now-small can be beautiful and productive”
Perhaps in our spare time (huh) we can have our friend Dan put up the entire talk on YouTube….lots to do!
On the last day of the conference, the sun finally came out – but, alas, it was time for us to go. We all headed down to the beach after lunch for quick walk – the air, ocean and sunshine were mesmerizing.
We all were extremely tired – don’t know why (actually, in my case I think it’s because of the sheets – yep, sleeping on bleached sheets something we aint used to here the urban homestead) and it’s hard to be on the road moving from place to place.
Not to mention the worry of how things were at the urban homestead and Sergio’s farm with one of the biggest storms we’ve had in years. Thoughts of the long drive home brought us back to reality, and we said goodbye to the sand and surf.
With such a land based lifestyle, even when on the road, there’s never really time off – your mind wanders back to the farm/homestead as you wonder what’s going on and the projects that await your arrival. We, and even farmer Sergio, were on the phone calling home – wondering the same thing: “How are things there – animals, garden OK?”
At the closing plenary session there was, shall I say, an “interesting” exchange with Elliot Coleman and Gary Hirshberg (of Stoneyfield) Definitely raised some interesting questions though we saw both sides seemed we sided more with Coleman.
Did leave us with a lot to think about – the future of food and organic agriculture.
Now for some photos!
Ahhh, the majestic ocean
Jordanne, me and Sergio enjoy a walk in the beach
Justin and Sergio wonder if they should bring some of the kelp home for their gardens
Enjoying the sand, surf and blue skies
No better place to have a conference in the world than Asilomar!
Jordanne, Justin and Sergio checking out the tables of information
Justin and Sergio intently listen to a lecture about beneficial plants and insects.
Three farmer’s hang out – Sergio, Chris & justin
Meeting up once again with Frances Moore Lappe
Jordanne & Sergio listen in on a talk in the lovely Chapel
And now for the most anticipated event of the conference – seed exchange
Justin, Sergio and Jordanne check out tables full of all sorts of seeds
Justin and I fill up envelopes
Nothing makes a farmer happier more than seeds…. well, perhaps rain and a bumper harvest.
Man hands! Pen and little envelopes in hand, Justin fills up on seeds
Farmer D gives his presentation