During the summer of 1995, I held a series of informal twilight tours on
organic vegetable farms in Eastern New York. I billed them as a time to
learn from the grower who was hosting the tour. I planned them so that
there would be somethng of interest to non-organic farmers as well (since
my ulterior motive was to get organic and non-organic farmers talking to
each other and learning how much they have in common instead of focusing
on their differences). One tour was on a garlic farm, another featured a
host of cultivation tools that were demonstrated, another talked about
their CSA method of marketing, and another talked about their CSA and some
cover crop plots at the farm that I discussed. At all of them, I did
a short presentation about soil management techniques, demonstrated a
penetrometer and had the attendees use it to feel where they could find
plow pans, etc. The series was enormously successful and popular, and it
DID get organic and non-organic farmers talking to each other and
realizing they can learn a lot from each other. By popular, I mean that I
had numerous enthusiastic comments from the attendees and the lowest
turnout was 23 people, the highest, 42.
So, I suggest a series of twilight tours on farms in your area. Choose
farms that are doing something slightly different and/or interesting, and
that have something that would be of interest to many people. Equipment
always seems to be a good draw. Keep the meetings informal, have the host
be the expert, and let things flow from there. But let's try to get
people to focus on their commonalities and how they can learn together from
each other, instead of focusing on their differences which often
leads to divisiveness. We're only 2% of the population nationwide (1/2%
here in NY). Let's not fragment ourselves anymore!!
On Mon, 15 Jan 1996, Donna Meyer wrote:
> I am education outreach coordinator for our local chapter of the Sustainable
> Farming Association. I have requested ideas on how I can reach out to the
> other Sustainable and Organic farmers who are afraid to come out of the
> closet for fear of one reason or another.
> I have another idea that may work if you can help me. We are centered in an
> area of mainly dairy and crop farms. The Board of Directors of the SFA is
> not diversified enough to come up with ideas for winter workshops and/or
> summer field events. Does anybody have any ideas for events that might
> interest the sustainable farmers?
> Somehow, I have to be able to reach out to those "closet" farmers. I think
> maybe we all have a tendency to think within paradigms and sometimes need a
> little push to step outside those realms. And if we can sponsor events that
> might be of broader interest to farms, it may be a way of reaching those
> other 1,000.
> I would really appreciate any ideas you could give me.
> Donna Meyer
> e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Ms. Dale Riggs
Area Extension Specialist
Albany Regional Office
146 State St.
Albany NY 12207