I am currently at the MOSES annual meeting, Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference, in LaCrosse, WI. I’ll update this post with new info as the day goes on. It’s currently -1 degrees here in LaCrosse.
8:30 AM — New this year, the MOSES folks have established the Midwest Organic Research Symposium as part of the program. The series of symposiums are on different topics. The first one this morning is on Weed Management in Organic Systems. To begin, five researchers gave short (5 minute) summaries of their work to a large group. That gave participants an idea of what the researchers were offering. All the researchers stayed on time and the summaries only took 30 minutes. After the summaries, the researchers split up into separate rooms and participants were encouraged to spend more time with the researcher in smaller groups. That’s were I am now in the John Masiunas/Ab Bicksler project managing Canada thistle with summer annual cover crops and mowing. It’s a small group of about 25 people and discussion is brisk. Lots of questions. At the 20 minute mark someone came around and encouraged folks to move around to other groups if they want. A few got up. Most stayed. People seem really interested. Canada thistle is a real problem with many organic farmers. This research offers some real hope. More info can be found here.
This format is definitely great for exchanging high-quality information between researchers and producers. And this IS an exchange. In addition to asking questions, the producers are making some very good suggestions and telling their own stories.
1:38 PM — The exhibit hall is packed with around 150 exhibitors…
The exhibit hall, 2008 MOSES
Will spend some time there this afternoon and see if there’s anything worth posting about.
In the mean time, at the general session this morning they introduced the MOSES Organic Farmer of the Year. Nicholas, Gary and Rosie Zimmer run the Otter Creek Organic Dairy in Avoca, Wisconsin. The Zimmers, “manage 1,200 acres of organic crops, including alfalfa, grass forages, corn, soybeans, canning peas, oats, barley and rye. They also milk 200 cows, have 50 dry cows, 300 heifers, 100 beef cattle, and 100 pasture-raised feeder pigs.” Impressive. They also started and run the Local Source Farm Market where they market much of their milk, cheese and meat.
Gary Zimmer, MOSES Organic Farmer of the Year
Synister Dane opened the general session with a hilarious adaptation of Dylan’s classic, “Everybody Must Get Cloned.”
Synister Dane, the MOSES house band
After “Dane” and the Zimmers, the morning keynote speaker, self-described investigative nutritionist and change agent, Melinda Hemmelgarn talked about Illusions in our food system, the illusions of “fruit,” the illusion of “clean and safe,” the illusion of compassion (to animals), value, “natural,” environmental responsibility, healthy choices, etc., etc. All these illusions are propagated by large food corporations using the media to control their image and the image of their products. Melinda thinks everyone should “grow some of your own food, cook most of your own food, know everything about all your food.”
Good food = healthy, green, fair and affordable. She talked much about the childhood obesity epidemic and how so many of our food issues are tied to poverty. Not sure about that, but the environment in which we and our children make food choices definitely influences our day-to-day decisions.
7:39 PM — Spent some time this afternoon wandering around the exhibit hall and found some interesting stuff…
Years ago I saw the need for software to help organic producers with the burdensome paperwork load required of them for certification. Even had conference calls with ATTRA people who had the same idea. Never happened. Now someone else has come up with a product…
It’s called FieldNotes and it’s put out by Sunrise Software out of Morris, MN. As you can see it can be used with a PDA. Though not designed exclusively with organic producers, it looks like it would do a pretty good job. Carman Fernholtz uses it. That’s good enough for me.
Want to protect your kids from the hell that is public school? How about this…
How about Scattergood Friends School? It’s a Quaker college prep boarding school for high-school aged student. From the school’s website…
“Scattergood has provided students from around the world with a college preparatory education since 1890. Unique in our approach, we emphasize living in community and are devoted to fostering the growth of the whole person. Rooted in Quakerism, the core values of simplicity, harmony, integrity, responsibility, and equality play out in everyday life. Students and staff alike endeavor daily to apply and integrate these Quaker values into the various school activities that occupy us from dawn to dusk.”
In addition to Seeds of Change and Johnny’s, it seems like there are more seed companies and organizations trying to serve the organic producer. Several were here…
Blue River Hybrids
Seed Savers Exchange