Yesterday I returned from my first MOSES Conference. While it might sound like a religious gathering, MOSES is a conference about organic farming. For the last 24 years this conference, held in February in La Crosse, Wisconsin has become an event that many organic farmers set aside as their time to learn and socialize. Francine and I first heard about the conference last year from some of our neighbors who are organic farmers.
A reflection of what makes organic farming unique, the conference has two elements not easily found in other gatherings: real food and happy people. The food selections included wholesome organic yogurt, juice, fair-trade coffee and chocolate, veggies, meats, cheeses, fresh baked muffins, bars, and breads. I think the people are happy because they work toward a passionate cause: contributing to a healthy planet. Many come as families which is a refreshing change from most professional conferences I have attended in the past. The meals are as enlightening as the workshops due to the conversations that take place. I heard stories about health epiphanies that brought people to organics and met young people eager to get access to some land so they can farm.
As I buzzed through the trade show on Friday afternoon I encountered a lady wearing a black cape with a plastic bat glued to her cheek. At first I was confused because I thought bats were pests not something essential to a healthy sustainable watershed.
Me: Do you capture bats? (Bats are bad, right?)
Bat Lady: (Pointing to a slim black rectangle) These are bat houses and I make them.
Me: (Catching on to the fact that she thinks bats are beneficial) So you attract bats?
Bat Lady: Bats are an essential part of a healthy environment. They can be an important part of insect-control strategies aimed at reducing pesticide use, thus reducing pesticide contamination of our watersheds. One little brown bat can catch 1,000 mosquito-size insects in an hour!
In a few short minutes I was impressed enough to check out her website and there I learned more:
Unfortunately, many bat species are declining in numbers at an alarming rate. They are slow to reproduce; most bat species have only one “pup” per year. Bats suffer from habitat loss and human fear based on myths. I have three (3) bat house models, all of which are certified by Bat Conservation International (BCI) — meaning they have passed all the criteria years of research by BCI has determined goes into the success of a bat house.
Moving along, I stumbled upon a guy with an open jar of jam giving taste tests of honeyberry jam. He sells the plants and I wondered if growing some on the side of our lot might be possible. Again I was impressed enough to check out his website. It seems that it is possible to grow these berries in our area. Should we plant some? Another point to ponder.
On Saturday, the last day of the conference, I must have been thinking about my self-imposed job of marketing and promoting our business venture. I stopped at Fairshare CSA Coalition’s booth and learned about how they collaboratively market community supported agriculture farms. I am venturing into a similar project in our area soon. I bought their cookbook and turned to page 40 to find a description of an unusual vegetable called Burdock Root. The book explains:
Gobo (Burdock Root) has been an important vegetable in Japan, cultivated there since the tenth century. The Japanese believe gobo to be a strong blood purifier, a support to healthy liver function, a tonic after sickness, and an aid to arthritis and skin diseases.
It went on to explain that in our culture we see this plant as a weed because it creates those burrs that attach themselves like Velcro to our clothing and our pet’s fur.
Burdock root stood out to me in much the same way the bat information stood out: We tend to dismiss things that might actually be beneficial and in this case, tasty. There are several recipes that I might need to try after a trip to an Asian market to pick up this interesting root.
How about you…Would you ever buy a bat house? Has anyone out there heard of honeyberries or burdock root?