Monday, August 20th marked ACORN’s first sold out Beginner Farmer Symposium to a wide audience of new, aspiring, and experienced farmers of all ages, as well as representatives of agricultural organizations and organic enthusiasts alike! What a turn-out! Though we had originally planned for 50 attendants, the Symposium ended up boasting a room filled to overcapacity at 130 people! We couldn’t be more pleased, as this clearly speaks to the growing energy supporting the future of Maritime Organic farmers. It seemed clear that our intentions came true: the new connections made on this special day will foster new friendships and potential collaborations for beginner farmers across Atlantic Canada
All of the sessions were fantastic and presented strong and diversified perspectives on a wide range of key agricultural topics. Our first workshops, hosted by Rowena Hopkins (Jitterbug Sodas) and Dr. Av Singh (Perennia), covered the importance of farm-based education, and then strategies in building soil fertility. The morning concluded with a resourceful session with guest speaker Daniel Brisebois of Tourne-Sol Cooperative Farm (QC)/Canadian Organic Growers about a topic particularly crucial for every new farmer: How to build financial profitability in organic vegetable production. Daniel discussed everything from the basics of CSA start-up to important marketing considerations, and crop decision-making. This seemed to resonate quite well with the audience, and certainly the information shared throughout the morning lead to inspired dialogue over the lunch-break.
The afternoon sessions continued in success between David Blanchard’s (Pleasant Hill Farm) resourceful discussion “Four Season Harvest: Getting Started with Greenhouse Production,” and Sally Bernard’s (Barnyard Organics) candidly comprehensive (and ever-so humorous) discussion on raising organic livestock, (or “deadstock” as she pointed out–an important distinction for every livestock producer).
The day wrapped up with Farming Cooperatively: Alternative Arrangements for Farm Start-Up‘ with Daniel Brisebois and Cammie Harbottle of Waldegrave Farm. This session offered creative inspiration on alternative ways of starting a farm (compared to the tried and true method of simply buying land and going for it!) and showed how farmers can work in collaboration for business and personal strategy: connecting with their communities to create better and more diversified production.
The day was interspersed with a series of ‘Yoga for Farmers’ sessions with Sackville-based yoga instructor Leanne Laracey, of Nava Yoga–who provided beneficial knowledge on techniques that can greatly benefit the mental and physical health of farmers–another valuable consideration for any new grower.
There was plenty of other activities going on too–between the ‘Beginner Farmer Trade Show,’ featuring businesses and support services for new farmers, the Seed Swap table (literally overflowing with seeds contributed by many participants!), the Small Tools Show and Tell, and the Beginner Farmer Raffle prizes, there was endless information to share, and lots to see!
After the Symposium ended at 5:30, many attendants carried on to the Beginner Farmer Mixer–an lovely evening social, featuring a selection of locally sourced organic food, drinks and live music, provided by Cactus Flower and Dark for Dark. Held at the Cranewood estate, a historic Sackville property owned by Mount Allison President, Robert Campbell, the location was generously offered as a (wonderful) space for this special gathering, and was indeed filled with many smiling faces and great conversation.
ACORN would like to thank the amazing group of people that offered great interest and support for this event, especially to the speakers, volunteers, trade-show attendants and all of the participants. Stay tuned for the launch of the Grow A Farmer Apprenticeship and Mentorship Program this fall, and for the ‘Growing New Farmers’ workshop stream (among many others!) at the 2012 ACORN Conference and Trade Show (November 22-24) in Charlottetown, PE!
Cheers to the future of Maritime organic growers!
More photos to come!
ACORN gratefully acknowledges the support of the NB Agricultural Council, Agri-Futures NS, the PEI Adapt Council, the Territorial Farmers Association, Renaissance Sackville, Picaroons Traditional Ales, and Growing Forward and Mount Allison University.