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.
“My goal is for people to visit my farm in a decade and not be able to recognize it as agriculture.” This is a quote from Don Tipping and is one of the most interesting things I heard at this year’s Tilth Producers of Washington Conference. I should introduce myself as well. My name is James Gonzalez and I am a sophomore at WSU Pullman.
This year marks the second time I have attended the Tilth Producers conference in Washington. Last year I attended in Yakima, and enjoyed every minute of it. I knew before the end of that one, that I would need to attend the next, and most likely every subsequent, conference. That is why I was ecstatic to head to Vancouver, WA the first weekend of November.
The trip there was long and full of extremely interesting and insightful conversations with my peers. After a stop for dinner in Hood River and a mug of draft root beer, we finally arrived and checked into our hotel. After some internet surfing to remind myself which sessions I was planning to attend, it was time for some shut-eye.
Bright and early the next day was registration. Got myself up and registered as soon as possible in order to secure some breakfast at some various locations around the hotel. I stumbled upon a coffee shop a few blocks away. It was here that I finally made the decision to try kombucha for the first time since I had been pondering the decision for a while. Did I like it? Let’s just say that it has become a staple of my diet now. After a delicious breakfast, I rushed back to the conference for the symposium.
The symposium opened my eyes to different views about the nutritional values of native species. I learned about the benefits of retaining the native plants in your area of living, and new ways to use these plant species. I had always been interested in why many producers rip out what was present in the beginning. It does make sense though, from an economic standpoint. You can make more money growing other crops. However, the nutritional value is sacrificed for this profit. It was interesting to learn more about how much nutritional value has actually been lost.
The next day was full of workshops, each catering to a different set of people. I think the most influential to me would have been the sessions regarding permaculture. Permaculture has intrigued me for a very long time, and I was very eager to hear about it from those who have practiced it extensively. Listening to how each of the three speakers utilized permaculture design to achieve their goals was fascinating.
The most interesting speaker in the permaculture session, to me, was Don Tipping. He explained his views on permaculture, and the world for that matter, to give insight on how he runs his farm. After listening to what he said, I understood that to him it wasn’t just a way of farming. It was a way of life. Everything tied together. This plant benefits that plant which benefited this animal, which benefited the soil, and so on. The quote at the beginning of this paper from Don is just astounding. It’s not about making money, it’s about making something that will last and sustain itself for years and years to come.
Another workshop that really opened my eyes to a new perspective on a topic was the one about sustainable honeybees. Bees as a whole are extremely important for all life on this planet, and that is one reason that I have been very interested in learning about them. I have actually written a couple reports on various topics concerning them. In this session though, I gained a new perspective on bees.
The woman that discussed how to maintain and keep bees was very passionate about them and you could feel that. The way she explained their lifestyle and tendencies made you feel as if she wished she was a bee herself. Again, it wasn’t about money, but about learning and about sustainability. She would allow her bees to swarm and leave instead of forcing them to stay in her hives. It’s a natural process. Who are we to say that the bees have to live where we want them too? All in all, it was a very eye-opening presentation.
After the conference had finished, it was time to say goodbye to the people that we had met and had many discussions with. It was time to say goodbye to the new coffee shop I had discovered. It was time to head home with the knowledge we had gained. At least till next year.