The 2nd Annual Central Alberta Winter Mixer brought together around 65 people from January 12-13th to learn, share stories and knowledge, and to make new connections. What a lovely group of new and old faces to spend the weekend with! We were able to close out this mixer feeling inspired and excited about the future of farming in this region.
Thank you to all of our fantastic speakers – you engaged us in your passions, and left us feeling inspired and more knowledgeable. We jumped right into the tough stuff (because we know you can all handle it) with our first presenter, Art Lange, on the Big Picture of Farm Business Planning. This is always a tricky one, as we have seasoned farmers, new farmers, and aspiring farmers all in one room, but Art was able to lay out a good foundation for how and when to start business planning, including concepts of education, financing, and articulating, reflecting, and re-articulating our farm goals. Our discussion with Art continued after lunch where we opened the floor for questions and got into debates and conversations from incorporating to registering a farm name to choosing the best program to track your books in, and how to choose a good accountant for your farming venture. Most importantly, Art roped in the value of personal and free time to make sure we all have a break – because as enjoyable as farming is, it can also take a lot out of you!
Now, this wouldn’t be a successful mixer without some mixing activities! We took a bit of a break from finances with a round of Farmer Speed Dating. We were so excited to be able to connect people who lived just down the road from one another but didn’t know it, those that have been following each other on social media but have never met, and those from as far south as Lethbridge to as far north as Dawson Creek! This was an opportunity to allow people to share their dreams, their fears, and their upcoming projects, ideas and aspirations.
It’s all about the Instagram
Denis and Andrea Forstbauer of Grey Arrow Farm shared with us some of their tips and tricks for marketing. Andrea is also a photographer by trade, so she had lots of handy tools and secret weapons to share with the group, be it editing apps for smartphones, to photo filters, hashtags and getting creative with our photo taking. Denis and Andrea shared with us a little piece of their farming story through some beautiful photos and anecdotes to go along with the different shots.
Creating an Adaptive Habitat
Takota Coen joined us to share about his new venture and supportive tools for farmers through Adaptive Habitat. Takota shared with us their Contour Map Generator that allows us to pull up an aerial, contour map of our own properties to help understand the natural ebbs and flows of our farms, and tools to help design using these features to our benefit.
It takes a Village to Raise a Farm
Mixed farmers Brett and Jenna Hauck from the Prairie Farm Project joined us to share their farm story and how partnering with neighbouring Young Agrarians has opened new markets, allowed them to try new things like raising chickens, and given them an outlet to express their creativity and ideas amidst changing generations, and isolated rural communities.
A Farmer’s Library
We asked everyone to bring along their favourite farming book, be it stories, philosophy or practical reading. We gathered these books together strategically to find where common interests lie and then split everyone off in their respective groups, to hopefully give everyone a chance to work through their current challenges and gain new inspiration from farmers in similar spaces with similar interests.
An Expletive YEAH! For Conscious Farm Communication
Mike Kozlowski joined us from Steel Pony Farm to talk about how to adopt a conscious communication plan on the farm to make sure everyone is starting their day off feeling supported and heard. Why not start off your day with a good group hug? It may sound a little quirky, but it is one way that Mike works to build a trusting and supportive relationship with his farm staff.
Fell in Love with Flowers and Found Ourselves Farming!
Angela Hall and Ashlea Kooman just finished their first season as flower farmers and they shared their story with us. Neither farm kids, nor are they sure if they consider themselves farmers, Ang and Ashlea found themselves in love with the prospect of flowers and launched their business this past spring. They shared with us the ups and downs of starting a new business, their plans for next year, and their hopes to continue growing beautiful bouquets for the region.
An Unsurmountable Amount of Gratitude for the Nomadic Wife
A weekend full of such excitement, learning and friend-making requires a good supply of nourishment, and we couldn’t have done it without the help of the Nomadic Wife, Melanie Villeneuve and her family. We trusted Mel wholeheartedly to craft a menu that reflects the uniqueness of our region’s food offerings, and to keep us fed over the weekend, and she did not disappoint! We can’t thank Mel enough for her time, effort and creativity.
A big, Big, BIG THANK YOU to everyone who came out to the event, to our speakers, our volunteers and especially to our sponsors who make this possible!
Maplewood Acres Crooked Spruce Farms
And that’s a (w)RAP!
As our send off for the weekend, our fearless and creative Apprenticeship Coordinator, Kolby Peterson, compiled this rap to sum up our experiences.
Welcome Farmer and Eaters to the Young Agrarians Central Alberta Mixer 2019
We want to socialize,
Network, connect, and learn so our goals can materialize
Explore our passions
Take inspiration from snowshoe hares and aspens
Remember to change with the seasons
Maybe it’s to procrastinate
Or talk about the last thing we ate
Or projects we want to initiate
Seed catalogues alleviate
The long winter season that we use to hone our focus
Looking for the first spring crocus
Another season to regenerate
Or flock together and cooperate
Where there was once one or two
Now we look to the many
Kicked hills can be fixed with hive mentality
And many minds, hearts, and hands for diversity
Learning never ends
Even 5 generations in
Maybe just jumping in
Or addicted to farming from now until the end
We grow better soil
To grow better food
For our growing community
& Grow better little people who might become farmers
That will stand on better land than their fathers and mothers stood
We are working on collaboration
Filling insatiable desires to learn
And connecting to agrarians
Farming (and potatoes) give us energy
The taste of crunchy celery
Imagining summer tomatoes in January
We forge our way forward
through our dad’s fields and herds
Wanting to learn the business
And make this way of like work
We connect and learn in circles seen
and unseen like roots of trees
We’re planting seeds
and making cheese
Never forgetting what holds it all together beneath our feet
It’s a balm for our physical, emotional, and mental states
Stubborn and resilient
Like the weeds we love to hate
But we’re gaining ground
With the food we put on the plate
Through coming together
And sharing similar goals
We all leave
Hardier, wiser, and older souls.
Thank you, Friends,
For being Young Agrarians.