The 2017 Northern Michigan Small Farm Conference will be held on Saturday, Jan. 28, at the Grand Traverse Resort near Traverse City, preceded by a one-day Farm School event on Friday, Jan. 27. Taste the Local Difference CEO Bill Palladino will deliver the keynote speech on Friday at 7 p.m. about how to reclaim our food as sacred.
The conference is organized by Crosshatch Center for Art & Ecology, and husband-and-wife team Brad and Amanda Kik. We caught up with Amanda before the Small Farm Conference to ask how it has evolved and what excites her most about this year's event.
Groundwork: What's unique about the Small Farm Conference? Why does it stand out?
Amanda: What is unique about the Northern Michigan Small Farm Conference is the diversity of farmers. Young, emerging farmers are rubbing elbows with folks who have been farming for generations. What brings folks together is not an ideology, but a love of farming. There is a lot of learning that comes from this diversity, and the planning committee really works to make the conference a big tent.
Groundwork: How has the conference evolved since you launched it?
Amanda: The conference keeps expanding — more folks keep showing up, and we try to keep pace. The conference was launched 18 years ago, under the umbrella of Michigan State University Extension. In 2012, we joined in the planning process and the conference was at the Grayling High School; after moving the conference to the Grand Traverse Resort, Crosshatch took the conference in as a program. In 2015, we added Farm School, a one-day pre-conference day for more intensive learning on specific subject areas.
Groundwork: How does the conference fit Crosshatch's mission?
Amanda: Crosshatch brings people together. The more we can learn with and from each other, the stronger our communities become. Any of us can look up farming information on the internet—but the learning is more tangible face-to-face, and you know who to call if you find you have questions. That’s part of what makes community.
Groundwork: What are you most excited about this year's conference?
Amanda: I personally love Michael Phillips from Lost Nation Orchard. He is smart and practical and charming. But my favorite part about the conference is bumping into old friends and making new ones.
Jacob Wheeler is the communications manager at Groundwork. Contact him at email@example.com.