So last week I’d briefly mentioned that I had returned that day from several days in Chattanooga, TN, for the annual Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group conference. About 1200 people, mostly farmers, attend the conference each year to share experiences, learn from one another and from researchers from around the world, and to socialize with others who know first hand what it takes to grow food in a responsible manner. It’s mostly an educational working conference, with sessions lasting from 90 minutes to a day and a half, full of in depth information on every aspect of growing and marketing vegetables, fruit, meat, dairy, and so forth. It has the scale of a national conference with a focus on the south, and is my favorite place to go to learn about the trade. It’ll be held one more time in Chattanooga next year before moving off somewhere further away, so mark your calendars now for January 19-22 2011 if this at all appeals to you.
Even closer to home, the annual Georgia Organics Conference is being held here in Athens on February 19th & 20th. The GO conference is much more of a “fun” conference, but just as educational. GO has not just sessions for growers, but also for “eaters” (for lack of a better term), educators, chefs, and everyone else from field to plate. And, unlike a convention of, say, vacuum cleaner salesmen who might descend upon a town and then leave, the GO conference is all about the community that is hosting it. Our growers are hosting tours at their farms and speaking at the sessions, our chefs are cooking the meals using ingredients from our farms, our community organizers are bringing attention to our local food projects, and so on. And the keynote dinner every year ranks up there with the best meals I’ve ever had. Not just at a conference, but anywhere. And I’m happy to have heard this week that Athens is so rich in things to show, our food culture is so strong, that GO plans on regularly returning every three years or so. There’s just too much going on for the attendees to see it all in two days.
This year, they’re making a portion of the program open to the public without requiring a full conference registration. On Friday, February 19th from 5pm to 7:30, an opening night reception will be held at the Classic Center, with music from Hope For AGoldenSummer, food, the tradeshow floor open, and other activities. They’re still finalizing the details, and I’ll pass them to you as I hear them. If you’d like to attend the entire conference, you can register or just find more details at their website, linked above.
So, that’s it on the conference front. This is the closest to “down time” that the growers get, but they’re getting right back into the fields to start direct seeding for spring crops, in the greenhouses to start seedlings for transplanting later, prepping new beds, and generally laying the groundwork for a year that’s better and more productive than the last. And of course our growers that have been going year round (which is many of them now, thanks to you being here to give them a market) have never stopped. They’ve been working through the rain and ice to keep their gardens producing for us. There are even a few new products listed this week!
Thanks so much for your support of Athens Locally Grown, all of our growers, local food, and our rights to eat it. You all are part of what makes Athens such a great area in which to live. We’ll see you on Thursday at Ben’s Bikes at the corner of Pope and Broad Streets from 4:30 to 8pm!
We’re starting to put a plan together on how best to use the space at Ben’s Bikes when the weather warms up and we really fill the back room. The first thing we want to tackle is the parking/walking space outside. The rain really did a number on the soil, and to make things worse the last storm took out one of those huge pecan trees behind the building. The heavy equipment needed to cut the thing up turned a large area of the lot to mud. We want to spread some gravel back there. Do any of you know of a source of free or cheap gravel that we can get delivered to the lot there? We can spread it around, but if the deliverer is able to do that too, so much the better. ALG depends on volunteer labor, so we don’t have much funds for this sort of thing. If you know of anyone who can help with this, please let me know.
We’re also making plans for an awning to give us more working space outdoors. We’ll put out a call for workers when it’s time to build that.
The Athens Farmers Market has closed for the winter. You can watch for news during the offseason on their website. The other area markets are also all closed for the season too. All but Athens Locally Grown, that is.
Please support your local farmers and food producers, where ever you’re able to do so!