It's been four days since we got back from our weekend in Corvallis, and I am still buzzing. Last Saturday we attended the OSU Small Farms Conference- 600 people all gathered in one place to talk about small family farms, farmer's markets and the challenges and joys of running a small farm in Oregon. It was great, especially the opening talk by David Mas Masumoto, author of ' Epitaph for a Peach' and 'The Wisdom of the Last Farmer', which I look forward to reading as soon as Packy is finished with our new (signed!) copy.
We had never been to the OSU Small Farms conference before, and it was such a good experience for us both that we will definitely be back. It was great to run into so many friends from the North Coast food and farming community there, and to meet up with fellow farm enthusiasts from all over the state.
One of the best things was seeing how many other first time attendees there were at the conference. Interest in farming is exploding in Oregon, especially among younger people- I've heard that our state is actually seeing an increase in the number of farms in operation, running against a declining national trend.
Even better than Saturday's experience was the gathering we attended on Sunday sponsored by Friends of Family Farmers.
The Farmer and Rancher Delegate Meeting to discuss the Agricultural Reclamation Act has to be one of the most inspiring days of my recent life, as well as one of the best run meetings I have ever attended. (And given that this was a meeting of 60 or so highly opinionated farmers and ranchers, that's really saying something.)
The best description I can give for what this was all about is in the words of FoFF themselves:
On February 28th, 2010, we will host our first Farmer Delegation in Corvallis, where a cross-section of family farmers will come together to establish a statewide platform for food and family farming in Oregon. Through this process, the Agricultural Reclamation Act for Oregon will be written. Our combined strength, represented through this document, will put family farms first, and ensure that public officials hear and understand the needs of farmers who are practicing a type of agriculture that respects the land, sustains rural communities and contributes to the states economy.
You can go and watch this short film that FoFF made about the process to learn more- if I was tech-savvy enough to embed the video I would, but I'm not, so you'll have to just follow the link.
It was a phenomenal day- great discussions and debate about some of the biggest issues facing small family farmers all over the state. There are a lot of seriously talented and smart people farming in this state, which gives me great hope for the future of small farms in Oregon. I have never felt so sure of my decision to become a farmer, and of the importance of that work to the communities we farm in as I was that day. When we were all asked to come up at the end of the meeting to sign our names to the ARA declaration, it was pretty powerful stuff. I will admit that that was not just a speck of dust in my eye- I was genuinely moved by the courage and determination of all of the people in that room to find a way to continue farming and providing healthy food for our local communities. Packy and I both came away so fired up, and determined to find a way to get our farm up and running again. We had a lively discussion throughout the long drive home to Olney shifting between the ideas and questions raised at the meeting and our plans for our farm's future.
Many thanks to all the hardworking people at FoFF, both staff and volunteers, for organizing the meeting and for pulling the whole day off so brilliantly. You are all amazing.
Thanks also go the the Astoria Co-op for helping to sponsor the event when they saw that we were attending as delegates from the North Coast. Their commitment to supporting more local food production in our community is so encouraging, and we hope to be able to supply them with great locally grown stuff in the not-too distant future. (Maybe even some edible plant starts this year, if we can get the greenhouse rebuilt in time.)
It was more than a little hard for me to come back down to earth on Monday morning, get in the car and head off to work to help make sure our mortgage gets paid. We still have a long way- and several thousand feet of elk fencing- to go before we can truly start farming seriously, but for a couple of days I got to think of myself as a farmer again, and to remember why I love doing it so much.
Which is why I know that I will find a way to make our farm rise again- I can't not do it.
As hard as the work is, I have never done anything so satisfying in my life.
Little do The Elk know that they are standing smack in the middle of our future orchard.
We need SUCH a huge fence.....