Once again, my father and I journeyed to La Crosse WI for the annual MOSES (Midwest Organic Sustainable Education Service) Conference. There we enjoyed a little rest, a little relaxation, and a lot of learning.
The most important thing for me personally about this experience has always been the networking. This conference draws people from all over the states and other countries. I even had the opportunity to talk to two different people visiting the conference from Australia!
In one of my first sessions, the speaker had us pause to turn to our neighbor and introduce ourselves. The goal was to find at least two to three things in common with them. It was far easier than most would expect. A conference is the perfect scenario for these kinds of initial interactions. We would start with the usual, “Where are you from?” question and would move from there to the “What do you do?” Always a good question in farming, it would quickly give you a launching point to share some association or memory to that field, then ask a follow up question.
As good as the conference was, it was not without its sad moments. This year is the last for Fay Jones as the Executive Director of MOSES. She is looking forward to stepping back and spending more time on her farm, and she’s earned it.
Here are some highlights from my favorite sessions.
Promoting Organic by Finding Common Ground
This session was given by Carolyn Olsen, focusing on how we communicate with others that may not share the same sentiments as ourselves. Even in the Organic Farming movement there is considerable diversity of political, philosophical, and religious opinions. The key is remembering that no matter where you go, there will be others who have differing opinions and respecting those opinions.
Conversations are one of the greatest gifts of mankind. It is how we share ideas and dreams, our victories and despair. It is how our stories are told.
In Organic Agriculture, there is a tendency to snobbery on occasion. We all know a person who tells you about how they have better eating habits than yours. Some farmers fall victim to a superiority complex, believing that because they farm in a more sustainable manner that they are better than anyone else. Vilifying conventional farmers is not a solution.
Carolyn advised avoiding using conversation enders, words that can easily offend and kill any hope of actual conversation. Words like: Monstatan, Chemical agriculture, and Uneducated. These words do little to make a difference and only leave the other person feeling irritated and/or hurt.
Rather, we should aim at finding common ground with other people. Having genuine conversations with them, listening to their stories and telling your own.
Carolyn blogs at: http://carolyncaresblog.com/
Origins & Evolution of the Organic Farming Movement
This session was given in two parts. The first was presented by Roger Blobaum, who told the story of the Organic movement from its start to the passing of legislature for the National Organic Program. The second part was given by Jim Riddle, an Organic Farmer who has been involved in the NOSB (National Organic Standards Board) and IOIA (International Organic Inspector Association), he covered what has happened since the NOP to today.
This session had the advantage of history behind it, providing a primer on what has made the Organic movement into an industry of its own.
In the first part, we learned about the beginning of Organic Agriculture in the 1970’s. Among the first to transitions were Farmer’s with family members sensitive to conventional chemicals. Despite its modern popularity, at the time Organic farming was under high scrutiny and written off or stereotyped by the majority of people.
In the second portion, we got a good look at what it took to get the NOP in place, and what changes were made to it as time went on. As with any legislation, it has its better parts and failings, but was the best that could be done.
For a better look at the full history of the Organic industry, check out Roger Blobaum’s website: http://www.rogerblobaum.com
Conferences can be good or bad depending on the perspective you take walking in. Much depends on how much you are willing to learn or how many people you want to talk to. Walking into this conference I had zero expectations, I was there to learn, I was there to talk. Again, as at previous conferences, I had a great time.
What conferences have you enjoyed? What do you think is the most important thing to remember going into one? Feel free to leave a comment with your answer.
MOSES website – https://mosesorganic.org/