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Conversations at Tilth

Posted by Jill Farrant | January 24, 2019
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This year CSANR sponsored travel for several WSU students to attend the Tilth Conference in Spokane, WA. We are posting reflections written by the students over the next several weeks. Please feel free to comment and give these students your feedback.  To view student posts from this year and prior years, visit

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Jill Farrant

When I saw the class itinerary for this year’s Tilth Conference, I knew I had to find a way to attend. As a student and single mother of 3, I wasn’t sure, how I would make this work, but CSANR stepped in with a generous scholarship that covered my lodging, travel and conference admittance. I squeezed my kids extra tight as I bounded out the door, ‘cause let’s be honest, every momma needs a break and some serious adult time was about to happen, with a happy hour, even!

My name is Jill Farrant and I am a student of human development, environmental science and organic agriculture which essentially means I am really, really interested in food security and food justice.

I came to Tilth because I felt like there were conversations that I wanted to have and the people I wanted to have them with were on the billing.  I was not really sure how I was going to do that either, since I am a very shy person by nature and groups tend to intimidate me, but I headed in with an open mind and a determination to at least listen.

Thursday began with rushed anticipation as I loaded on a bus to Tour LINC Foods and member farms. I stood outside LINC Foods in the freezing cold, regretting having made this silly decision to leave the comfort of my 50-degree west coast bubble and drive 6 hours out into the arctic, but I held it together and took solace that I was not the only one jumping up and down to stay warm.

The wait was worth it. Beth Robinette met with us and brought us up to speed on all the cool things that were happening for local farming in the Spokane region and for LINC Foods. We then took a tour out to her family’s Lazy R Ranch and we got to feel what local, sustainable food systems felt like. It was beautiful and just as I had locked my eyes onto the cute little face of a baby cow and was contemplating my place in all this, snowflakes dropped on my nose.

I should probably share that I am the world’s biggest Gilmore Girls fan and if you too are a fan, you will know that I had no option but to see this as the universe’s sign that I was exactly where I needed to be, when I needed to be there.

I spent the next 3 days, easily immersed in conversations with individuals involved in every aspect of sustainable farming from production, to planning, to teaching and advocacy.  I sat and listened in on the Diversity in Farming panel all day Saturday and got to really hear stories that will forever change my perspectives on agriculture.

After the Women in Farming session, I got to briefly speak with Beth Robinette and the other impressive panelists to talk a little about the role they see women taking in this changing face of farming. There was a definite consensus that women were leading the charge toward sustainable agriculture, that their presence in the field was growing and that women’s unique role was that they were really thinking about their children when engaged with food security planning.

I spent Sunday involved in interesting sessions from Bastyr University and attended a weed cultivation for profit session. I closed up my day with a wonderful presentation from Anne Schwartz as she walked us through the wealth of information on the CSANR’s web page dedicated to true cost accounting that will likely be keeping me busy for the bulk of my Christmas break.

Then I packed up and headed back over the mountains.

As I reflected, I realized that while I came to talk, I did so much more, I collaborated. I had the goal to listen, and I did a lot of that as well but not only did I listen, I had the opportunity to feel, and that was more than I could have ever hoped for.