I always look forward to our annual local farming conference because TOFGA's TCOOPS conference always feels like old home week to me because I've known some of the wonderful folks I see there since TOFGA was TOGA, before I ever grew food commercially. They've seen me go from retail organic garden center manager, to shop owner, through organic landscape maintenance and now on to farm owner/manager/farmer - or, agriculturist. (Sometimes I still feel a little funny calling myself "a farmer" in part I guess because I didn't have to earn those stripes growing up in that world as a kid, I don't live out in the boonies on a regular "farm", and I still love the part of me that grew up just outside of Chicago that still embraces her love for a taste of the city life - and I often indulge in it so I feel a bit more citified than farmer sometimes. But I guess by pure definition of the word - I are one. My CSA family calls me Farmer Marie.)
At TOFGA, I usually lend a hand and volunteer my time as much as I can while still attending as many of the lectures as we are able to as volunteers. I have a history in public speaking, so the last few years I've found myself introducing and getting to meet many of the lectures' speakers, and this year - helping in the kitchen with the wonderful chef Amanda Love, The Barefoot Cook. What a great lady and of course, remarkable chef! Once we all finally figured out how to operate the commercial dishwasher - things went a lot better on KP duty. :)
We watched and listened as the creator/producer of FRESH! seemed almost in awe of her audience - a room full of generations of farmers. She was quite humbled by the energy I think as she went through her experiences in making the film. I was in and out of the kitchen, filling water and clearing tables so I didn't get to hear in detail all of her presentation, but I could feel she was clearly moved by the experience. Maybe little does she know, we so appreciate her, and others like her, who have the technical means and skill to go out there and tell the story of local farming and food. It's certainly a story we think is worth telling. The honor was ours as well.
And as that weekend of learning also comes to another close, it is time to head back to our farms to begin to apply all that we have gleaned in our CEU type classes. Continuing Education for farmers. You never can really learn it all, can you? Nature changes and throws curve balls at you each season, caves in the top of your greenhouse with ice and snow, freezes 90% of your crops with 100+ hours of subfreezing weather every 1 in 15 years, and don't get me started on the legislation that gets passed freeing up monster GMO plants to roam free in our environment causing havoc on small farmers across the world......we'll keep the energy positive. :)
New techniques come along to help enhance those we already use and to improve our growing, hopefully increasing our yields and expanding our options. The stories and experiences of our fellow farmers are always priceless and often save us countless hours of painstaking mistakes or just help us take shorter routes to successes.
All in all - I guess the life of this small urban farmer in the winter is much like many other avid gardeners. I just get to apply it each day when I walk out the back door to work at my favorite full time job here at Eden's. We cover up the rows as best we can - hunker down as Ol' Man Winter blows in colder than normal temps, and take to our repaired greenhouses where tiny seedlings are just waiting for the soil to warm up and welcome them into its care.
The Ground Hog and Solomon says Spring is coming early this year!
He's ready for it, are you?
Eat Your Food - Naturally!