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A Reinterpretation of Values

Posted by James Gonzalez | December 17, 2015

This year CSANR sponsored registration for several WSU students to attend Tilth Producers of WA annual conference.  We will be posting reflections written by the students over the next several weeks. Please feel free to comment and give these students your feedback.

James Gonzalez, student guest-blogger.
James Gonzalez, student guest-blogger.

What do I consider “valuable”? How do I determine what has worth and what doesn’t? Am I really in such a position that I can assign value to things? These are questions that I asked myself after attending this year’s Tilth Producers of Washington Conference. My name is James Gonzalez and I am a junior majoring in both organic agriculture systems and viticulture & enology at Washington State University in Pullman.

This year marks the third time I have attended the Tilth Producers conference in Washington. The first time I attended was in Yakima and the second time was in Vancouver. Both of my previous adventures at the conference left me filled with both knowledge and questions; questions that would eventually provide me with insight. This year turned out to be no different.

Getting to the conference this year was a simple drive to Spokane. Not a big deal; Pullman isn’t too far away. However, things become interesting when you set your alarm for 5:50 a.m. and you don’t actually get up till 6:57 am! After a mad dash to get myself ready and pack my bag in the car, I raced off to make it just in time for registration. An exciting way to start my day, and the conference!

Each day of the conference is filled with different workshops that cater to the needs of various people. Throughout all of the workshops, the most interesting and influential to me were about to medicinal crops and a micro-dairy, respectively. Although neither of them was extremely relevant to my studies, the information expanded my knowledge and the concepts they introduced were absolutely fascinating.

Michael Pilarski delivering his presentation on medicinal plants. Photo: Tilth Producers of Washington
Michael Pilarski delivering his presentation on medicinal plants. Photo: Tilth Producers of Washington

The medicinal crop workshop was given by Michael Pilarski, a speaker that gave one of the permaculture talks at the conference last year. After I realized this, I was even more excited to attend the presentation! This guy really knows what he is talking about! He discussed the importance of medicinal crops as a source of alternative medicine, the benefits of medicinal crops, and the overall lack of medicinal crop growers. The most interesting part of his talk was the pictures he showed of farms on which he has worked. The number of plant varieties being grown at the same time is unbelievable! When asked about how many he has ever been able to grow at once, he answered with, “About 200.” 200!? I couldn’t wrap my head around this! This was in direct contrast to pretty much everything we are taught in our agriculture classes. At this point I began to drift off into my own mind and ponder possibilities about what crops could grow with which others and how many I could shove into whatever area I was provided. I thought, “I am the one limiting myself.”

Henning Sehmsdorf during his presentation at the Tilth conference.  Photo: Tilth Producers of Washington.
Henning Sehmsdorf during his presentation at the Tilth conference. Photo: Tilth Producers of Washington.

The micro-dairy workshop was probably my favorite out of all of them. The presenter’s name was Henning Sehmsdorf and he is the owner and operator of S & S Homestead on Lopez Island here in Washington. The farm he runs is biodynamic and produces raw milk and raw milk products. What I found so interesting about this presentation wasn’t the information about the micro-dairy (although it was pretty cool). It was how he viewed everything on his farm. He wasn’t concerned with income in the sense of money and things with monetary value. He portrayed income as being compassed on anything on your farm or in your life that you can assign a value to. He applied this to products that he made and consumed on farm instead of selling. To him, these weren’t a lost source of income because they provided him with some value in his life. I found this intriguing as well as extremely satisfying.

My main goal in life is to own my own little farm that I can use to sustain myself and my family, with no outside income; just enough to be happy. I know it’s a lot to wish for and is extremely hard in practice, but the way Henning spoke of his farm and how he lives gave me some hope because it made me reinterpret how I can look at values. I think I came away from this conference a slightly different person than I was before.

I can’t wait for the next conference.

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