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Friday, November 06, 2009

The Wisdom Of Growing Berries Workshop

On Wednesday we went to Columbus Ohio to the 4-H building (or the 4-H mother ship) to the Wisdom of Growing Berries workshop. If you remember we had a farm tour back in August. That was stage one of the Wisdom of growing Berries and this meeting in Columbus was the second and final stage. This was all about sharing our knowledge with beginning farmers and farmers getting into berries. I saw quite a few people I know who are definitely not beginning farmers but I guess felt they needed more knowledge.

I was very pleased to see Kristi Fisher there. We met in 2000 when we both sold produce at the Dayton Second Street Market (which neither of us does currently). We see each other it seems about once a year, though I think it has been about 3 years since our last meeting. Any hoo we had a nice chat about chickens when we should have been talking berries-oh well...

Eugene and I went to the event as "Mentors" and sat on the afternoon panel. I gotta say I learned a from both the mentor panel and the new grower panel. Lots of good insights from both groups. I found that once again I felt kind of behind the other Mentor growers as we have not made good use of extension/OSU research. But considering most of the research is for the chemical farming crowd I have avoided it. But I was made aware that there is much there for the organic growers as well. If nothing else, pictures of pests and diseases and links and references to other sites.

But back to what we did. We sat on this panel of 5 mentor farmers and we were asked three questions and each of us had five minutes to answer each question. Most of us went over time, some way over time. But it was all useful information. After the panel discussion was over we broke into small groups. There were 43 participants plus the panel members so around 50 people in all. I know a few people left before the afternoon stuff started taking down the numbers. Unfortunately we only had about 25 minutes to talk in these small groups. There is so much to say and teach and rarely enough time to do it at these events.

But Sharon Sachs, the woman who put on this event for IFO, at the end had a solution to the not enough time to teach problem-she wants to pair up beginning and struggling farmers with experienced farmers in a mentor program. We have had apprentices and interns on the farm but this is a bit different. In this case we would get paid by the mentee to teach them what we know. it is up to them to initiate the contact and tell us exactly what they want to learn and than we go from there. Several farmers in the room had been on both sides of the table and the # 1 thing I got from this is don't trade work for information. Charge money for the information.

In the past we have done this mentoring thing a bit and always were disappointed because we would trade information for work but found that we spent a lot of time training the person to do the work and in the end it slowed us down too much. these people said if you do trade work for education than have that work be something big and something you do not really want to do like clean out a livestock barn-something you might pay someone an hourly wage to do for you. But do not include any chores that you are teaching. As one guy said he did not want any students pruning his blueberries but he is more than willing to travel to their farm to show them how to prune on their berry plants. In other words he does not want these people working on his farm and making their mistakes on his farm. Good policy.

I have no idea if we will be come mentors to anyone from this event. We are willing but have yet to be contacted

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