Thursday, August 03, 2006

Laura’s Cheesy Farm Aid Journey

No one has work trips like Farm Aid – at least no one that I know.

Every year, Farm Aid staff are encouraged to travel to farm meetings across the country. Some meetings we make sure to hit every year because we learn so much. Many of these meetings are a little bit like a farmy reunion! Anyway, this past weekend I traveled to Wisconsin (my first time) to drop in on the Organic Valley Kickapoo County Fair followed by a trip to the National Family Farm Coalition’s annual summer meeting.

When we travel for Farm Aid, we work hard to keep costs low, which might sound like a pain, but actually ends up adding to the trip. What do I mean by that? Well, when my traveling companion Glenda and I landed in Madison, we headed to the home of her distant cousin for the night. Strange you might think? Quite the opposite. Because we had local hosts, we got the best inside information. They took us to the farmers market and introduced us to all their favorite vendors. I might add that that Madison farmers market was a complete orgy of fresh fruits, veggies, cheeses, flowers, grains – really, anything that grows in Wisconsin you can buy at the Madison farmers market.

After gorging on hot cheese bread, from the market we headed off to the Organic Valley headquarters in La Farge where the festivities were to take place. I had an afternoon spot on a panel about young farmers. Of course I had to keep eating cheese to keep my nerves under control.

The following day we drove up to Tomah, WI where the NFFC group was already deep into farm policy by 10am on a Sunday. We listened to fantastic presentations by farmers and farm advocates from all over the country about the future of food and farm policy well into the evening.

All in all, on this trip I saw four vegetables that I had never seen before, ate at least seven kinds of cheese, finally understood non-recourse loan payments, participated in a panel of distinguished speakers, collected 9 business cards, explored a cabin basement to find a fuse box, tasted Mississippi moonshine (just a sip!) and slept very little. What a weekend!

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