Well, well, well, it’s hard to believe a month has now passed since the ACORN Conference. What a whirlwind indeed! Time surely flies. As the year draws to a close, we certainly have a lot to reflect upon….
This past conference in Halifax, NS, was our biggest yet–with over 500 people, a sold-out trade show, an awesome launch at the Khyber, and from 3 years old to 70, a wider demographic of participants that ever before!
The whole shebang started out on Friday, November 11th, after 1pm (of course, we wanted to also honour Remembrance Day) with an opening keynote from ACORN President, Allison Grant (Southfield Organics), Beth McMahon (ACORN) and Sally Bernard (Barnyard Organics). Then the workshops began! We had over 40 scheduled over the course of the weekend, covering topics on Season Extension, Self Sufficiency, Urban Agriculture, Soil Health, and much more! See the full schedule here.
Dark skies and down-pouring rain didn’t deter hundreds of people from turning out though. The line up on Friday stretched between two floors! Hannah, our ever-busy registration coordinator moved fast with other volunteers to get as many people in –and dry!– as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, as a result of the inclement weather, Ann Slater’s flight was delayed, which meant the cancelation of her Friday session, ‘Practical Farmer Safety and Wellbeing.’ Luckily, she was still able to make it in time for the Kick-Off! and for her subsequent resourceful sessions on Direct Marketing.
The Kick-Off was great. What a party! We had five wonderful locally made short-films to screen in the Khyber theatre, including the debut of ACORN’s Meet Your Farmer Bike Tour Doc, by Ian Mauro & Alissa Sylvester–see here or below, and Shaani and Kaia Singh’s award-winning ‘Where The Waters Meet: Sacred Connections Within Community.’ Meanwhile, plenty of food and drinks were served downstairs, supplied by a number of excellent local establishments (PICAROONS!, jane’s on the common, Schoolhouse Gluten-free Gourmet, Planet Organic Market, Local Source Market and Seabright Market Garden), and attendants viewed a series of stunning images displayed by local photographers Stephan Hederich and Tanya Busse.
For the films, it was high priority that we had a well-working lap-top/projector/sound system. I am not exactly the ‘tech-support’ type (yet, anyway), so it was pretty great to arrive and notice that our crew of friends and volunteers had everything up and running super-smooth. From there, the 3rd floor theatre quickly filled over-capacity (people were spilling into the hallway!), for a series of agriculturally inspired films about food, farming, and community.
The weekend continued in success. The skies cleared and between Saturday and Sunday we offered two full days of workshops, including free public talks on New Farmer Training and ‘Beyond Peak Oil’-Cuba’s approach to sustainable agriculture (featuring Cuban permaculturist Roberto Perez), and Seedy Sunday. Saturday night featured the annual ACORN banquet, with over 230 attendants, a full-3 course meal of all organic, and locally sourced foods. The Silent Auction (our biggest yet), wrapped up around 10pm, with over 100 items (books, seeds, farm and garden equipment, and SO much more) won by our many participants. All proceeds go towards our up-and-coming ‘Grow A Farmer’ program, and we are so grateful for the generosity!
By Sunday, around 5pm, it was hard to believe everything was over. After months of late nights at the office, busy with plans and preparation, the biggest yearly ACORN event was now complete! As people left the hotel to catch flights, or hit the road, whether 40km back to the farm, or across a few border-lines, I departed feeling rather touched by what spirited folks we have here in the Maritimes: growing, selling and promoting quality organic food; working in bettering food policy and government strategies; and/or teaching others about the magic that exists between seed and spoon. We may have a challenging growing climate, but we most certainly have a united community of dedicated participants of all ages and expertise. How encouraging as we continue to strive for a stronger organic food system in Atlantic Canada!
For the record, many others thought the conference was swell, as well! Besides a great feature in the Coast (not online yet), see here for posts and articles from the Commoner, the Year-Round Gardener, the Halifax Media Co-op, Adventures in Local Food and the Chronicle Herald.
Until next time, save the dates everyone! The 13th Annual ACORN Conference and Trade Show will be held in Charlottetown, PE, at the Rodd Charlottetown from November 22-24, 2012.
In other news, things are now changing in the ACORN office too! Beth McMahon, ACORN’s magnificent Executive Director of the past 7 years, has taken on a new position as the Executive Director of Canadian Organic Growers (COG), Canada’s only national organization promoting organic agriculture (join now and subscribe to their fantastic quarterly magazine). Though we’re sure going to miss her around here, boy, are we ever excited about the new prospects on her horizon! In the meantime, I will continue to work on projects for new and aspiring farmers, and Theresa will continue to facilitate many fantastic developments for the New Brunswick organic community.
Thank you again to all that participated in the Conference, and to all that have supported ACORN over the past year: our members, sponsors, volunteers, speakers, farmers and food contributors, trade show exhibitors, and loved ones. What a wonderful team effort! On behalf of the ACORN staff, we wish you happy holidays and all the best in health and prosperity for the year to come!
See below for more photos taken by Tanya Busse (for all of them, see here) and the debut of ‘Bike to Farm!’ – our Meet Your Farmer Bike Tour documentary (Ian Mauro/Alissa Sylvester).
This post was written by Lucia Stephen, ACORN Conference and ‘Grow A Farmer’ Programs Coordinator.