Less for grain, but YES for produce – My trip to Tilth
January 23, 2018
By Cody Holland
This year CSANR sponsored registration for several WSU students to attend the Tilth Conference. We have posted reflections written by the students over the past several weeks. Please feel free to comment and give these students your feedback.
I’d like to preface this blog post by thanking WSU CSANR and Tilth Alliance for generously supporting the costs of my trip to Vancouver. Fact is, I wouldn’t have gone otherwise. As a full-time student, it’s all too easy to stay ‘on-rails’—incentivizing constructive risks, like trekking to an interdisciplinary conference—is chicken soup for the student soul. But now I’m mixing metaphors.
My expectations were essentially ‘nil’ preceding the conference: maybe I’d meet a future employer; “gee, never been to Vancouver before”; “with a name like Tilth, it’s got to be good”; conference SWAG. I’d examined the seminar docket ahead of time – looked an awful lot like a WSU syllabus: The View From 400 Feet: Sensors and Analytics in Precision Agriculture, From Farm Worker to Farm Owner: Experiences of Latino Farmers Across Washington, Produce Processing Capacity in Washington State for Farmers and Buyers, etc., etc. Alas, WSU CAHNRS does its job too well! Information imparted at the seminars fell into one of two categories (1) straight-out-of (a) SOIL_SCI 101/201 (b) HORT 101/201 or (2) very narrowly, and thoughtfully, tailored to the niche small-holder direct market organic farming demographic that Tilth supports. Not much to be had for a wanna’be sustainable grain farmer. The highlight of the 2 ½ day event for me were the remarks of keynote speaker, Dr. David Montgomery. With eloquence and aplomb, Dr. Montgomery wove a narrative of soils and civilization to lift the spirits of naysayers who claim that our topsoil is too far-gone, and that modern agriculture is incompatible with soil stewardship. A mixture of personal anecdotes and scientific case studies left me, a skeptic, assured that ‘organic’ and ‘conventional’ producers alike can replenish our soil resources, as long as soil health is prioritized.
All told, I was impressed with the Tilth Conference. Speakers ranged from scientist to government worker, vendor to farmer. The growers at the conference—of which there were many—made the most of the opportunity to glean valuable information from experts. And the bread pudding with rum sauce was to die for.
I beseech you! If you are a small to medium sized organic produce grower, look no further than Tilth for an ally and bulwark for your farming endeavors.