Last week, Small Farm Central crossed the nearest border and headed up to the 31st Annual Guelph Organic Conference in Ontario, Canada. Four days long, the conference featured workshops, symposia, and a trade show to provide farmers all the information they need to start, improve upon or convert to organic farming.
After some slight confusion about being in the wrong place (see right), we got our booth set up at the trade show. Saturday was literally a non-stop current of curious, enthusiastic, and friendly people who wanted to hear all about Small Farm Central even if they had absolutely no use for our services. Having amazing Ecuadorian chocolate sampling on one side of us and a beloved 40-year old environmental journal on the other, it was affirming to get any attention at all. As it was, we hardly had a chance to take a deep breath. By Sunday, things slowed down a bit but we still made lots of good connections.
We met folks from advocacy groups such as Beth McMahon from Canadian Organic Growers (COG), Katie Sandwell from Ontario Fresh, and Jacob Pries from the Organic Council of Ontario (OCO). We met with other service providers who specialize in working with organic farmers like video producer Devin Smith, writer and marketer Susan Ratz, food consultant David Cohlmeyer, and fellow software developer Bill Huneke.
Mostly, though, we met farmers: All kinds of farmers, big and small, livestock and crop, young and old, experienced and beginning, and a far more diverse population than we are used to seeing down in the States, which was great to see.
Rob Wallbridge of Songberry Organic Farm, who we've had the pleasure of working with for the past year, took time out of a busy day to stop by. We had the chance to explain what we do to some established organizations such as the Conestoga River Local Food Co-Op, Lakeview Farms, and the Shared Harvest Community Farm and also some fledgling farms like Omagarden, Blessed Tree, and Fiddlehead Farm. Many of the younger and beginning farmers had a strong interest in the technological and social networking aspects of farming in the 21st Century and, in general, the enthusiasm and energy of this local food community in Ontario was inspiring to be around. It was a great trip and we'd like to go back next year. If only we farmers could have our conferences in nice weather once in a while!