Reflections on the 2019 Tilth Conference

This year CSANR sponsored travel for several WSU students to attend the Tilth Conference in Yakima, WA. We are posting reflections written by the students over the next several weeks. To view student posts from this year and prior years, visit

Sarah Nehring headshot.
WSU student Sarah Nehring

Wow! What a lot of information, perspectives, experiences, and interesting conversations packed into one weekend. From the Swan Dance performances by the Yakama Nation to the keynote speakers Javier Zamora and Valerie Segrest, to eating those tasty mini kiwi fruit things (what were they called again?), the Tilth Conference in Yakima this November was quite the experience and one that I’m glad I got to participate in.

Looking back on the conference, there were at least two big takeaways for me: one, that it’s really awesome and affirming to be with a group of people who care about food and farming in a similar way that I do; and two, that there is no possible way for me to learn about and act on every single issue/concern/problem related to agriculture, and that’s OK.

I am in my third year as an undergrad at WSU in Pullman, and my major is Organic and Sustainable Agriculture. This is a relatively new major – it was started in 2006, I believe – and it is still pretty small, compared to some of the other ag related majors at WSU. As such, I have experienced only a relatively small community of people who greatly value and are actively learning about ways to improve agriculture according to all three aspects of sustainability – social, economic, and environmental.

So at the conference, I found that it was refreshing and encouraging to be with a large group of other people who value what they eat and how those choices impact other people. There were people there who cared about the soil on their farm, about taking care of livestock ethically, about growing and eating healthy food, etc., etc. I also loved getting to discuss what I learned with my classmates who came to the conference. Each of them had their own unique experiences and brought a diverse set of perspectives with them. Great way to get to know the awesome people that I sit with in class every other day!

Yet, looking back on what was talked about at the conference, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. If there is one thing that I’ve learned from being a university student, it’s that the world has a lot of problems, and a lot of really big ones at that. Even just looking at agriculture-related problems, there are still a lot of them. Too many to count. At the conference, I became more aware of poverty, hunger, and lack of access to nutritious food. I learned about the detrimental effects our current food system has had on certain Native Americans and their way of life. And sometimes it seems like the whole big mess of our world is dumped on top of us with the order, “Here you go. Fix it.” Talk about a big weight to carry.

However, I have come to realize that it’s not my business to attempt to fix things that I am not equipped to fix. There is only so much one person can do, and each one has his or her own passion and calling. I have a finite amount of resources, time, knowledge, and strength to do things. As long as I’m faithful with what I have and what I know, then that is enough.

Before I close, I want to reiterate how very grateful I am for this practically free opportunity to attend the Tilth Conference. Many thanks to CSANR for providing such generous scholarships and to our professor, Dr. Lynne Carpenter-Boggs, for encouraging us to go!