So glad I volunteered for a work study position! Last year I didn’t know many people and felt disconnected. This year I had a great time, got to know many of the teachers and the other work trade volunteers, attended some great workshops, and made many more connections.
Some of the awesomeness, in no particular order:
1. Seeing Jeannie Dunn from Red Moon Herbs again. Her workshop on growing herbs for the wholesale market last summer at the Wild Herb Weekend was incredibly important to me- she made me feel like this wasn’t just a dream, that this was an attainable goal. It was more than inspiration, it was hard data. It was names and numbers and facts. It really took the whole project out of the fantasy dream realm and gave it shape and reality. Walking up to her on Saturday and telling her that the dream I had at the last conference is now happening, that I have in fact started that farm, was awesome indeed. I think she was happy that someone took her advice!
2. Hearing Juliet Blankespoor’s keynote speech. Her speech brought me to tears. She started her first herb business in a shack in Citra, FL in 1990. One of her first books, one of the books that inspired her the most, was Hygeia: A Woman’s Herbal. Want to know where I was in 1990? In Gainesville, 30 miles away, reading Hygeia: A Woman’s Herbal and considering becoming an herbalist. The last third of her speech was about creating regional networks for medicinal herbs: herbalists, growers, and wildcrafters. My time is now.
4. Meeting Andy Firk from Bamboo Grove. I have been at events with him a couple times but never actually taken one of his workshops. At the conference I moderated his Edible Gingers class. There ain’t no geek like a plant geek! I liked him immediately. We were able to speak briefly about trading gingers, I bought one of his black cardamom plants, and gave him the contact info for a ginger taxonomist he did not know. I look forward to going down to his farm in April for a plant weekend.
5. Networking. Networking is not easy for me, I have a terrible time walking up and talking to strangers. Having a spiel that I practiced, business cards, and a sign-up sheet in my hands helped, but what helped most is that everyone I spoke to was welcoming and kind and interested in the farm.
I missed Earthskills to go to the herb conference, and I think I made the right choice. Such wonderful people!