At the first Alcona Regional Farm Conference on Saturday, keynote
speaker Kristine Ranger addressed the farming lifestyle and its relationship to
concepts from individual lives to legacies for the community. Ms. Ranger is an
Alcona County native who now lives in Dewitt and has been in agricultural
education and consulting for more than a quarter of a century. Her talk was
among the highlights of the conference organized by Inspiration Alcona’s
food-related committee, Farm to Fork Alcona.
A total of
16 speakers, in breakout sessions both morning and afternoon, covered not just
the financial aspects of farming, but also how to find help with all sorts of
practical problems as well as local farmers relating their own success stories.
Speakers and vendors represented Greenstone Farm Credit Services, the USDA Farm
Services Agency, Alcona Conservation District, Taste the Local Difference, the
MSU Extension, the Alcona FFA chapter, as well as several local farms.
crowded of the breakout sessions were individual success stories. Said one
attendee, “Hearing success stories of local farmers gives me hope for the
future of local farms in northeast Michigan!”
More than 90 people came to the event at Lost Lake Woods Club
as listeners, vendors, speakers and volunteers, despite a few cancellations for
illness or, in one speaker’s case, the heavy snow downstate.
About two dozen people came to a Friday evening reception,
where they enjoyed wine, beer and cheese and snacked on s’mores before going on
an hour-long hayride through the Lost Lake forest.
Breakfast and lunch were among the highlights of the day, with
an egg-and-sausage casserole and pancakes with Michigan maple syrup at the
first meal. Lunch featured a spicy butternut squash soup, beef pasties from
Kathy’s Pasties of Harrisville, and an apple crisp for dessert. The meals were Certified Local Food events through the Taste the Local Difference organization.
created a constant buzz during meals talking about what they heard at the
conference, networking with others or just catching up with old friends. One
participant commented, “I'd pay $25 just to come back again
for the breakfast and lunch food!”
Inspiration Alcona board member and conference organizer
Maureen Castern said, “What
a pleasure to be able to bring together so many who are working to improve our
community – they do work that really matters to people’s lives.”
The audience for the farm conference filled the auditorium at Lost Lake Woods Club.
One of the success stories, this one about raising pastured chickens, came from Waneta Cook.
The MSU Extension display offered help to local farmers from the state agency.
Vendors answered questions from participants during the afternoon sessions.
Between talks, the audience found time to talk among themselves.