Local food, political activism, Slow Food

CFSA conference and seed frenzy

Last Saturday I went to the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association conference in Durham with Charlie and Walter. The workshops were interesting, for the most part, but I heard that I missed a couple of really great ones that had to do with edible schoolyards and youth projects. I enjoyed the one with Cricket Rakita about basic seed saving, and in the afternoon I participated in a very interesting discussion with CR Lawn of Fedco Seeds and others about seed patents. In a world without Monsanto, I would love to start a second life as a seed producer or breeder.

The last thing in the world I need right now probably is more seeds, but there was a seed exchange table and a couple of seed vendors that were irresistable. Fedco was not there as a seller, but Southern Exposure Seed Exchange was and SC Foundation Seed Association presented heirloom seeds for sale from the collection of Dr. David Bradshaw of Clemson University. If I had an acre of land, I would have bought a lot more of the Bradshaw collection.

I bought a packet of Willow Butterbeans, which had been in the Bradshaw family for 150 years and was selected for its slender leaf shape, resistance to Mexican bean beetles, beans per pod, and vigorous production. He said that they were his favorites. Another butterbean variety I chose for the color – Loudermilk butterbeans are about half white with the remainder a sharp contrast of spotted black. I only have 25 each of these beans but if I raise enough to share, next fall I’ll offer them up to others interested in growing and saving the seeds to pass on to others.

At the seed saving table, I picked up Choppee okra, another 150-year old variety from the Georgetown, SC area that is long and slender. A red speckled butterbean from Cricket Rakita that looks like Red Calico but he says that it doesn’t turn gray when cooked. And “Italienischer” oakleaf lettuce and “Marconi” sweet pepper.

SESE had a basket of 2007 seeds, mostly organic, for a dollar a packet. I bought:
Cosmos, Bright Lights
Zinnia, State Fair mixed colors (I missed my zinnias this year!)
Basil, Dark Opal
Cotton, Erlene’s Green (I’ve always wanted to try green cotton!)
Lettuce, Red Sails
Creasy Greens
Tomato, Cherokee Purple (I swear, the only other tomato seeds I will buy will be Amish Paste or Roma.)

It was encouraging to see so many young conference attendees and the dinner was all local and delicious. My friends Fleming and Brit Pfann of Celebrity Dairy won the Farmer of the Year award. Michael Ableman gave an entertaining keynote speech and slide show. Charlie seemed to be rejuvenated and uplifted by the whole thing and I loved getting to know Walter a little better, partly because he treated me like a queen, complete with a shoulder rub in the hallway!

I had paid for and was supposed to go to the workshops on Sunday, which really seemed more interesting to me, but I didn’t go. I missed a workshop on raw milk legislation and Jim Riddle’s perspective on national organic standards, which if you have been with me for a long time, you know that I used to be fairly rabid on the subject. I did meet Jim at the dinner and shook his hand. I told him that he was my hero! (I didn’t mention along with Michael Pollan, Mark Kastel, Wendell Berry, and Charlie!)

Anyway, the conference was terrific and well worth the money spent. I will probably get more involved in CFSA and we are talking about our Slow Food convivium doing more in collaboration with them. If I can swing it, I’ll try to go to the conference again next year.

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