The first annual Organic Growers School Harvest Conference took place Friday, Sept. 5 and Saturday, Sept. 6, at Warren Wilson College and A-B Tech. The workshops guided participants from the active growing season, when produce and food are abundant, into the more barren winter months when fresh garden products dwindle.
Lee Warren, executive director for the Organic Growers School, estimated attendance at around 150 for Friday’s workshops and 275 for the Harvest Conference on Saturday. Friday classes featured a fermented beverages workshop with Marc Williams, ethnobotanist and director of Plants and Healers International; a mushroom foraging tour with Alan Muskat, author of Wild Mushrooms: A Taste of Enchantment; and a workshop on wild foods with Natalie Bogwalker, author of Wild Abundance: Reliance on the Foods Around Us. Saturday workshops focused on five tracts: Fall and Winter Growing, Home Cooking, Fermentation and Preservation, Self Reliance, Homestead Skills and Wildlife Skills.
The Saturday workshops included live demonstrations and in many cases offered a chance to sample the end product. The workshops allowed for questions as the class progressed, resulting in a course more tailored to the needs and interests of attendees.
The Harvest Conference also hosted a Saturday trade-show featuring homesteading products from vendors such as Sow True Seed, Fifth Season Organics, Gaia Herbs and Firestorm Café and Books. Local food vendors including Home Free Bagels, Cecilia’s Kitchen and the Taste & See food truck were on hand as well.
Bogwalker said the conference offered a broad range of resiliency skills that were also accessible to most people.
“In order for a culture to be resilient, it is essential that the majority of people in a given place learn the basics of taking care of themselves and each other,” she said. “I am not talking about doing higher level mathematics or commando survival skills. I am talking about feeding ourselves; learning how to process, eat and preserve the wild foods growing abundantly all around us, as well as learning how to effectively grow a minimal input garden.”
The Harvest Conference is part of the Organic Growers School’s educational outreach efforts which support organic farming, gardening and living. The conference was launched to complement the organization’s Spring Conference, which began in 1993.