By Samantha Sawyer-Blain
I first learned of the Guelph Organic Conference & Expo when searching for volunteer opportunities on Goodwork.ca. I was delighted when a friend and fellow University of Guelph grad asked if I would like to volunteer.
#1 Great finds!
My friend and I bought two bottles each of Filsinger’s Organic Food’s apple cider vinegar, and I picked up some Level Ground fair trade organic coconut oil from the Grow Marketing exhibit.
The Cottage Gardener Seeds representatives were especially helpful in answering my many questions – “Basil, I can grow basil in my window, right? Like a window herb garden? No? What about this? Would these grow?” I have very limited experience with gardening, so I really appreciated the free booklets they made available to me. I also bought Catnip seeds for my mom, and Echinacea seeds for my dad ?
#2 The story of Black Creek Community Farm
It was enlightening to listen to the workshop speakers describe the trials and errors of establishing this relatively new community farm, and heartwarming to hear stories of how they’ve collaborated with and learned from members of their community. I found the manager, Alex Redfield, to be laid back and patient with a great sense of humour which, after hearing the details of some of their challenges, I imagine must be necessary in order to remain undeterred.
They are not alone in fighting to solve the paradox that is the urgent need to make healthy food accessible to economically disadvantaged communities while at the same time paying fair wages to farm labourers. It would be wonderful to see Black Creek Community Farm become a successful and inspirational model for other communities.
#3 The conference was full of individuals working to make the future better for Canada’s organic farmers!
The Conference provides opportunities for organic producers to do the following:
-introduce and sell their products to attendees
-network with retail representatives
-share and receive helpful knowledge and advice from other producers
Beyond being entrepreneurs, many of these organic farmers have a very emotional connection to what they are doing; many are working for positive change, while some could consider themselves activists.
One of my favourite things about the Guelph Organic Conference is that it provides opportunities to learn about and discuss the issues faced by the organic farming community. To facilitate this discussion there were several events and seminars covering many important topics including:
-Keynote Forum on National Organic Farming Issues: The State of the Organic Nation;
-Greenbelt Farmers’ Market Network Room;
-Seminars focused on topics such as fibreshed, pollinators, social justice, regulatory issues, certification, etc.; and
-Informational exhibits, such as the one focused on GMOs