It’s That Time of Year.

The growing season is right around the corner and everybody in the sustainable agriculture realm is finding time to get together.  Last weekend was the wonderful and inspirational MOSES conference, we’ve got our first Get the Dirt dinner of the semester on March 8th, MACSAC is holding their annual open house on March 18th, and at the end of the month both current and former Lawrence University students will be hosting their second annual Student Initiatives in Sustainable Agriculture (SISA) conference!

I met Oren Jakobson and Sophie Patterson at the student chat at MOSES on Saturday morning.  These two recent Lawrence University graduates had attended MOSES (and these brief hour-long student discussions) several times before and were frustrated that this was the only real forum they had encountered for young people interested in sustainability, farming and gardening.  Just like experienced organic and sustainable farmers could learn from one another at MOSES, Jakobson and Patterson wanted a place where students, recent graduates and potential young farmers could come together to discuss and learn from each other.

Last year, the first SISA conference was a major success.  Students attended from 30 different universities and 7 states.  Efforts have been taken this year to expand attendance to the national level.  Their intended audience is “current and recent college students dedicated to sustainable gardening and farming initiatives whether well established or not yet realized.”

The conference begins on Friday night, March 30th at 7:00 pm with tea & snacks along with an introduction by the Lawrence University garden hosts, a film screening and campfire.  If you can’t make it Friday night, that is totally fine, as Saturday and Sunday will be jam-packed with activities.  After keynote speaker John Ikerd welcomes everyone and shares his experiences about moving from promoting conventional agricultural practices to  more small-scale sustainable endeavors on Saturday morning, students break out into several student-led presentations. .  Last year, F.H. King member Kimberly Koch presented on F.H. King and its old CSA program.  She taught everyone about what a CSA was as well as how to advertise, pack shares, create newsletters and drop off shares.  But mostly, she explained how the F.H. King CSA program worked so that other students could replicate these efforts at their own school.  Other presenters included students from a school with an industrial composting system  and another that raised pigs.   Presenters explained how to raise funds for student organizations and also how to get more members involved.  This year, Darin Ripp will present on F.H. King’s Full Cycle Freight Program!  Saturday is largely the sit-back-and-learn-day, although there will also be local beer tastings, two more film screenings and a Meet & Greet at the Viking Room Campus bar.

Sunday is far more hands-on, beginning  with yoga and followed by a day of small discussions and three hands-on workshops, on topics such as grant writing, composting and beekeeping in addition to a Hoop House Raising seminar.

The whole weekend is meant to bring everyone interested in sustainable agriculture, gardening and farming together to share experiences, learn from each other and get to know others who share their passions.  Jakobson and Patterson want the event to be accessible to everyone, so the whole weekend costs only $30, with 3 total meals included!  They were providing campus housing for the overnight, but I believe those spots are now full.

Registration closes on March 16th so register now at the conference webpage to an event that last-year attendee says “was really inspiring. To hear a combination of all the cool things students are doing made you feel really great about how the sustainable agriculture movement is going. I left feeling excited and pumped to do more!”