The Small Farms Conference

Author: Caitlyn Menne, Goat Song Farm To Sing with Goats blog -

Publish Date: Spring 12

Hats... There were a lot of hats in that room... I found myself gaping at an enormous crowd of people last Saturday, as I wound my way through what was the OSU Small Farms Conference. Eight hundred people had gathered for this event. Eight hundred people who all had the same passion in life: growing good, clean food.

Granted, not all eight hundred people were wearing hats, but there was still quite the vast array! I scanned the low, brick building, trying to take everything in. There were conservative Mennonites, and beaded, tattooed hippies. Elderly gentlemen with polished cowboy boots and dusty hats, and suburbanites wearing T-shirts and sneakers. Youngsters and oldsters, wise folks, and reckless dreamers, cattle ranchers and veggie growers, folks with 100 acres, and others with 1 acre rumbling truck drivers and Honda Accord drivers, tractor lovers, and horse lovers. We were all here. To learn about farming.

The announcer gave his short and to-the-point speech as people filtered into the auditorium and commenced having various people stand up for what they did and have everyone clap. He thanked all the folks who put the conference together; he thanked the speakers. He thanked the farmers who they bought lunch from (that was awesome; everything was locally sourced!), and then he surprised me by asking all the farmers under the age of 35 to please stand up.

Hey, that’s me! LOL. I glanced around to see who else was standing up, and upon seeing other young people getting to their feet (I have to admit though... I was the youngest person [sigh]), I too got out of my chair. My teal, Lunatic Farmer shirt suddenly seemed very conspicuous, but I wore it proudly. The announcer pointed to all of us who were standing and said, “Folks, these people are our future. Let›s give them a hand!” And with that, a thunderous round of applause rose from all around me. I have never felt so proud as I did at that moment. I may still be a youngster, but these people were proud that I was willing to shoulder the responsibilities that they did, in producing good food. Shucks, I smile just thinking about it. :)

The classes started shortly after, and the rest of the day was bliss... My first class was about winter gardening. Living in Oregon does have its advantages when it comes to weather. Our winters are so mild that we can pretty much keep things going year around. Whoohoo! My pen was madly writing things down; everything from slug control (high calcium levels in the soil keep them at bay!), to greenhouse styles. Kale varieties, to planting dates. The first two speakers were local farmers. Soft-spoken, yet rather blunt. Their gifts in life were obviously growing food, not speaking, but bless their hearts for shouldering the task anyway. :)

The second class was about running a full-diet, year-round CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), taught by Kristin Kimball. Wow. Totally inspiring! Kristin is just as awesome when it comes to speaking as she is in her writing. She spoke of how they run their Essex Farm in New York, how we could use their CSA template, how to use draft horses, and all that fun stuff. Many questions were asked and answered during that session, and my hand couldn't write things fast enough! It was such a good talk, and Kristin challenged all of us to see how we could change our farming methods to be more sustainable. After the talk was over, I looked at my friend Sarah and said, “I’m calling about that black draft horse tomorrow.” LOL. (and I did, by the way)

The last session was yet another class taught by Kristin. This one was called, “Farmers as Writers”, and I LOVED it. It was such an awesome time to hone in on my writing skills, ask questions to someone who has published a book already, and just be around fellow agriculture writers. :) As Kristin started wrapping the class up, she challenged us all to write down a writing goal we would like to achieve. I, being the unsuspecting person that I am, blithely wrote down that I wanted to start getting up at 6:30 every morning and write until 8. Next, Kristin had everyone find a partner. Sarah and I looked at each other and promptly scooted closer. That’s what friends are for, right? Once everyone had a partner, Kristin mischievously, but seriously, told us to trade e-mail addresses with our partners and badger each other until our goals were accomplished. Everyone groaned and then laughed. Talk about walking blindly into a trap! LOL. So, my friends, I am now getting up at 6:30 every morning, and I am writing until 8. Thank you Sarah for keeping me at it! :)

The drive home was filled with chatter as Sarah and I mulled over our day. I was filled to the brim with ideas and schemes, and the two of us laughed and joked over possibilities. It was a good day.

I am a farmer. :)

This is a reprint of the Goat Song Farm blog written about the OSU Small Farms Conference