2014 Michigan Family Farms Conference a huge success!
posted on January 24, 2014 2:11pm
With 460 attendees, the MIFFS 2014 Michigan Family Farms Conference was a huge success. The keynote speaker, Lydia Gutierrez, president of Hacienda Foods, Detroit, stole the show with her inspirational stories of hard work, determination and faith. Before she began, she got us all moving and interacting, sharing our dreams to each other. Many business cards were exchanged and connections were made. As she spoke, she reminded us all that although we may struggle with set backs and failures, we must continue to follow our dreams. We all struggle and we will all succeed!
The diversity at the MFFC was abundant. People of all backgrounds arrived from urban centers and rural communities throughout Michigan. All were seeking connection and the opportunity to learn from each other. Joe King and Herman Miller, from Flint, came for ideas and resources to aid in their pursuit to continue the legacy of the late Caroline Meekins. She was a community leader who was dedicated to youth gardening and urban high tunnel gardens in Flint. Devon Wilson, from Battle Creek, came on scholarship with Sprout Urban Farms. He had an interest in learning from the many homesteaders and organic farmers.
As people broke into smaller group sessions it was clear there were many present to attend the mornings high tunnel workshops and homesteading sessions. But whether you were learning how to explore new markets, build partnerships, or build a high tunnel, one theme rang clear. Malik Yakini, of D-Town urban farm, spoke of the importance of identifying YOUR mission, YOUR vision, and YOUR values. Lee and Laurie Arboreal, organic farmers and homesteaders from Bangor asked their participants to reflect on who they were and what their personal boundaries might be. Trent and Ruthie Thompson from Green Gardens Community Farm, reminded their session attendees to use the information in ways that suited their individual needs. “What will work for you?”, they asked. Denae Friedheim, of Foodshed Farm, encouraged high tunnel workshop participants for find their niche, and offer something unique.
The day was also filled with fun and engaging youth programming. Forty-six youth spent the morning making smoothies, extracting strawberry DNA, doing “Egg-periments”, and planting seeds. Kamareon and Ceasar, from Detroit, had a great morning. Ceasar enjoyed making smoothies while Kamareon’s favorite part of the day was the great lunch. They both learned many valuable lessons, such as eating fruits and vegetables will keep the doctor away. Hannah from Covert came to the conference with her family. She was here to learn more about farming and really enjoyed making the bean necklaces, or “beanie babies”. She demonstrated how to keep the seeds warm by tucking them inside her shirt. Youth were also able to attend field trips in the afternoon visiting the Leila Arboretum and the Food Bank of South-Central Michigan. This opportunity to connect gardens and the outdoors with the importance of providing healthy foods to everyone was an invaluable one. A great day for our young people!
We are so excited and thankful to everyone who attended the 2014 Michigan Family Farms Conference. We are lucky to have such an enthusiastic and supportive community of members. Thank you again, and we look forward to seeing you throughout the year at our workshops and meetings!