Thursday, January 27, 2011

Views from the field: Michelle Premura

Pure Catskills members receive support for business development through our Education Scholarship Program. Michelle Premura of The Turquoise Barn in Bloomville attended the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) Conference in Saratoga Spring last weekend and shares her thoughts with us here.

Michelle with fellow farmer Terry Hannum of Abundance Farms.

This is a review of the NOFA conference I attended in Saratoga Springs January 21-23; a truly inspiring educational event. This will have been the 3rd time I’ve attended over a period of 5 years. Each year there is always something new to learn. What makes this conference such a great educational experience is that the learning takes place not only during the workshops, but throughout the entire weekend. There are group meals, lectures, book signings and trade shows throughout the hotel all weekend.

The theme this year was “Diggin Diversity”. Quite appropriate I thought. There were people from a variety of backgrounds with various levels of experience participating in and facilitating the conference. What’s interesting is that, despite age, race, experience, socio-economic background, everyone has a similar interest in sustainability, preserving the art of agriculture, and a mutual respect for individuals and the earth. The workshops & events also cover a wide area of interests and are, for the most part, on the cutting edge of what is happening not only in New York State but on a global level.

I attended classes on food preservation with a specific interest in fermentation. This is one of the main methods I use to preserve vegetables from the garden. Besides being a practical & simple way of preserving, there are also numerous health benefits associated with fermentation. My intention is at some point to produce on a small scale, jars of preserved veggie blends from the garden using this method. So this class was on the top of my list to attend.

I also attended a workshop on internships, apprenticeships, & hiring staff. Since we do have a number of volunteers each year on our farm, this gave me a clearer understanding of the difference between volunteers, internships & apprenticeships.

Some of the other courses I attended were managing compost, no till gardening, & business taxes. There were also keynote speakers presenting inspiring & motivating talks not just about farming/gardening but about the impact and important role that food plays on many levels in our society. Of specific interest was Malik Yakini’s presentation on urban farming in Detroit. Malik’s enthusiasm, perseverance as he articulated the importance of community working together toward a common goal, was inspiring.

Another prime benefit of attending the conference is networking. I was able to make connections with a number of people that I will be discussing the possibility of future work together at Turquoise Barn. And even more exciting is the possible opportunity of being able to attend next year as a presenter giving food demos.