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Routes to Farm Summit

On Wednesday, January 18th and Thursday, January 19th over 120 participants gathered at the Starved Rock Lodge and Conference Center in Oglesby, IL for the Routes to Farm Summit, hosted by Routes to Farm, a project coordinated by Angelic Organics Learning Center. During those two days, farmers and local food advocates discussed the direct market issues many are facing and proposed action steps to come to solution and support one another as a community. The event was tremendously successful, and we would like to share one farmer’s personal account of the Summit.

Two days and one night in the beautiful setting of the Starved Rock Lodge was truly awesome.  It was nothing like any preconceived notions I might have had at all.  It was better.  The open forum of conversations discussing goals, objectives, concerns, successes and possible solutions was truly inspirational.  The friendliness and comradery of the collective farmers was an experience I’m so glad to have been a part of.  I made several connections I’m looking forward to interacting with again.  It was real conversations with real people who face the same or similar problems as farmers and through their diversity shared ideas, insights, accomplishments and acquired knowledge to help each other out.

It began at 10:00am Wednesday morning, with the introduction of the coordinators while everybody wondered what was going to happen.  Once we knew how it was going commence, everyone jumped right in with high enthusiasm and so we began.  The first step was to write down a concern or issue you needed insight on, post it to the wall and designate a time slot and a group letter (a, b, c, d, e, f, etc.) so everyone would know what, where and when the topic would be discussed.  Once all topics were posted we got a chance to decide which topic groups you wanted to meet with to begin right after lunch (which was healthy and delicious). 

Everyone was welcome to join any group throughout the two days so it was a rotating forum.  Most of the farmers were from Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois, in various stages from thinking about starting, to beginner, to seasoned farmers.  They grew everything from micro-greens to bee hives, with a variety of animals in between.  The coordinators were mainly from Angelic Organics Learning Center and had a wealth of information on several topics.

Each group leader was responsible for getting the names of the participants in their discussions and taking notes, which will be typed up and distributed to each farmer present at the summit within the next week or so.  The topics of discussion varied from:  how to start a farm, what to grow, what resources are available, the economics of making a living, how to form CSA’s, partnerships with other farmers, where to sell and the list goes on.  As I said earlier, there was a wealth of information to be gained.
Before we closed Thursday afternoon, we all gathered together to say a few words about the whole experience and the consensus was enlightenment and thankfulness for having been a part of the Summit.  I for one was truly amazed, enlightened and thankful for the whole experience and would love to participate in any future ventures of this nature.

P.S.The room was the bomb, I wanted to take the bed home with me, the service was excellent, the staff was friendly and the rustic atmosphere would certainly make it worth a return trip when I’ll have more time to explore.  Thank You for the experience.

Diane Mc Donald
B.S.R.R. Youth Center & Academy
Pembroke Farming Family Member