Southern SAWG Conference 2012: Little Rock, Arkansas

21 Feb
by Deanne

 When Steve and I worked for corporations, we often attended conferences, each in our own professional areas: me in training and development and Steve in production agriculture or beef production. I like conferences because I enjoy networking with others in my field. Steve didn’t really like them because he would have rather been at home with me and the kids(…what a nice guy.)

Now that we have a new profession and we’re working together, we decided to make the first week of our winter vacation a learning vacation by driving to Little Rock, Arkansas to attend a sustainable farming conference. We had hoped to attend a pre-conference session by a somewhat famous urban farmer from Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Will Allen. Unfortunately his hands-on session was sold out.

A photo of me helping in a school gardenInstead of putting our hands in the soil and learning about worms, we went on a tour of two community/school gardens near Little Rock. We put our backs into it and learned how to make a French Intensive row for planting at a school that is part of the Delta Garden Study with FoodCorps and the Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

 Steve did attend Will Allens breakout session and was impressed with his energy and passion for being able to take any surface, even asphalt, and grow things.  His ability to grow food anywhere relates to his ability to make excellent compost. This session made us wonder if we could grow crops on our parking lot.

During the two day conference Steve was drawn to attend sessions focused on the operations of growing food. I was drawn like a magnet to sessions based on food access, food hubs, and restaurant/farm partnerships. So even though we were together, we went our separate ways.

A map of the confernce attendees

We have noticed before that when we go to conferences we feel a bit overwhelmed at the time and don’t really feel like we learn anything new. I think it comes from being introverts. We both need time by ourselves to process information.

Now that we have been home for about a month, we can say that what we gained most is a commitment and new-found confidence about the steps were are taking to transform our business from a traditional restaurant into a food establishment that strives to educate as well and feed our hungry customers.


4 Responses to “Southern SAWG Conference 2012: Little Rock, Arkansas”

  1. Pat Tanner February 21, 2012 at 10:10 am #

    Deanne: I know exactly what you mean about being overwhelmed at conferences. That’s how I feel about those of the IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) and the Fancy Food Show. I quickly become overwhelmed. I think about what it’s costing me to attend. The relentless networking quickly becomes too much for introverts like me and you. But I always, always find, as you have, that unexpected nuggets of useful information or new ways of thinking about things eventually emerge, along with at least one gem of a contact.

    • realocalcooking February 22, 2012 at 10:25 am #

      Pat: Those sound like interesting conferences, I will have to check them out. Thanks for stopping by to read my post.

  2. kathleensmith334 February 21, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

    You might also be interested in attending the Midwest Organic Farming Conference that’s held every February in La Crosse, Wisconsin. It’s a fabulous, well attended event (3,000+ attendees I think) with great workshop sessions and networking opportunities. And lots of good food, too! We’re actually on our way there this weekend and will be selling our camelina oil.

    • realocalcooking February 22, 2012 at 10:19 am #

      It would be great to attend that conference, unfortunately we didn’t plan ahead, hopefully we’ll be able to attend next year. Safe travels and have a great time introducing people to camelina oil!

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