We had a very pleasant time at the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Conference in Fargo last Friday, February 4, 2011.
This gathering of farmers, from cattle and llama ranchers to grape growers and CSA operators, drew folks from across the northern tier states and prairies provinces to share expertise and network.
We were privileged to present two workshops on our greenhouse methods. The good questions and lively discussions that followed lasted longer than the formal sessions. These were solid, practical, experienced ag people who could see the market for such an innovation. We discussed ideas for greenhouses built into hillsides, into barns and attached to houses. Some folks wanted to build large units as another business enterprise for their operations, and others just wanted to feed their families better over the winter. It's always a joy to see people's eyes light up and the wheels start turning when they realize what off-the-shelf technology, skillfully applied, can accomplish.
As always during such gatherings the networking was as important as the formal sessions. We had good conversations with many producers, folks from the the White Earth Reservation and representatives from non-profits and Sustainability groups. We brought home a stack of business cards and a sack of literature and samples.
The exhibit hall had about forty booths, representing seed companies, gadget makers, non-profits, government agencies, and growers with wares to peddle.
We spent a lot of time at the FARRMS booth. We've done workshops with these people before, and are planning some joint ventures in the near future-WATCH THIS SPACE. They also sold many of our Manual PDF-CDs- which led to occasional crowds.
As we've seen at other such gatherings, these folks tend to be very well read and aware of the World situation. Talk turned to Egypt more than once. Being keenly aware of such factors we all noticed that news stories generally downplayed, but occasionally featured, the fact that food prices and shortages are motivating much of the unrest across Africa and the Middle East. This comes as no surprise. As much as Industrial Agriculture wants to tout that it “Feeds the World,” the fact is that it doesn't anymore. It's petroleum- and capital-intense system is breaking down. Peak Petroleum and Climate Change are part of that, as are speculators acting like jackals. That System is not designed to benefit The People, but to concentrate wealth. People are just resources.
Sometimes I want to cry when I see what's going on, then attend a gathering like last week's. The tide of trouble is rising- that's when it's good to be with clear-eyed, inventive people who are “building dikes.” Goodness is always most poignant and inspiring when set beside rumbles of tragedy.