Published Dec 3, 2010

Young Farmers Conference – School of Farmer Wizardry

By Luke Gran

All the pieces were there:

Gothic architecture, tall ceilings Cold

Rooms of long narrow tables, veteran

Farmers sharing knowledge,

Bats flittering, between long shadows,

wise speakers

The only thing missing at the Young Farmers Conference was a sporting match of Quidditch.

I was sent to the 2-day conference at the Stone Barns Center to scope out what is going on from the “Foodie Hub” and report back to Iowa. Here are a few highlights:

Think Big, Think Business

Jason Moriber took business planning to the drawing board delivering an interactive, energizing, and engaging presentation to beginners many of whom were food producers first and businesspeople second. This Digital Consultant from the Pacific Northwest came out to speak because he believes in his research: local, healthful food farms is going BIG. In 30 years, this farming will be the norm and large corporations are getting interested in how they can tap into this market. Jason encouraged beginners to write everything down, have a process, make it transferrable to another entity so when ready, the farmer will be able to sell the business and reap the benefits from all the hard work.

Delicious, Good Food

The Chefs at the farm restaurant – Blue Hill @ Stone Barns – buys products from over 60 farmers in the Hudson Valley.

This is one of the most exciting social change movements happening in America today.

— Dan Barber (Chef at Blue Hill)

I’m not sure that I hear Practical Farmers of Iowa farmers speaking about what they are doing in the same terms. Could it be that here in Iowa we seem to need to counter attempts by others to marginalize innovative marketing or production practices than what dominates the landscape. Or it could be that we are just a practical bunch, not as affected by the swings of what is popular in the moment. I think PFI memb
ers love farming, they love carrying on vibrant rural cultures and lifestyles above all else. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Revolutionary War

Fred Kirchenmann, a well-known face at PFI meetings, newsletter contributor, is also working in a ½ time position with Stone Barns Board of Directors and delivered the final address of the conference. I was struck by what he said, that only about 1/3rd of American Colonists agreed with the decision to go to war with Britain. (1/3rd were unsure and 1/3rd were opposed). So when we are struggling with a new way of thinking about growing food, explaining it to family, friends, or new customers, we must accept that not 100% of folks will embrace our way of thinking. We just need 33% to make huge changes to see the future we aim to create.

Huge Turnout
100 young farmers were turned away as conference space was limited. The number of young people interested in growing food for local and regional markets is undeniable.

We welcome all enterprises, ages, and points of view to Practical Farmers of Iowa. See you at the next online learning, conference workshop, or field day.

What a conference, what a celebration of great farmers, and food!

If you missed it, check out the audio recordings online soon.