Sunday, July 22, 2012

Field to Fork Festival - 2012

The Field to Fork Festival is a local agriculture and sustainable ecology festival, held at Halcomb's Knob Farm in Paint Lick, KY. The 2012 festival was just the 2nd year for the event. We also attended the 2011 festival.

The festival has grown since 2011. There were more workshops, and significantly more vendors. The facilities have been improved to create more comfortable classrooms for the workshops. Attendance seemed to be up significantly, although it was hard to tell since there were large groups present from the Governor's Scholar Program, which was using the festival as a field trip for participants.

I attended 4 workshops this year, the first being Permaculture Methods, taught by Susana Lein of Salamander Springs Farm in Berea. I had taken the same workshop at last year's festival, but as this was was 2 hours in length instead of 1 hour, I thought it would be worth attending again. I'm very happy with my decision to do so. Susana has a wealth of information to share, and I was able to pick up some additional information from her this year. The information on cover crops, mulching, and sheet composting (layer cake composting, as she calls it) are things that we'll certainly make use of. The last 30 minutes of the workshop were spent doing a hands-on project, to create a garden bed using Susana's layer cake method.

After a quick lunch, it was time for my second workshop, Rainwater Harvesting, which was led by Roy Adkins, of Halcomb's Knob Farm. This workshop was described as a "make-it, take-it" session, as we actually constructed a rain barrel to take home with us. We jumped into the making of the rain barrels, right away. Had there been more tools to go around, the workshop could have probably been completed in under an hour. It was scheduled for two hours, however, and took most of that time for everyone to complete their barrel. The process was very simple, and I'm glad to have had the chance to build my first rain barrel with the help of someone who had done it before. There are several things that I will change when I make more rain barrels, but the one I built during the workshop will certainly be put to use collecting water from the shed. When I do get around to making the rain barrels, I'll do a post on the subject.

My next workshop was, How to Practice Co-Existence - Guardian Animals, led by Dianne Hellwig, of Hellwig Rambouillets. The focus of this workshop was choosing a guardian animal to protect livestock from predators. The primary predators focused on were coyotes and feral dogs. The guardian animals discussed were dogs, llamas, and mules. The instructor uses Great Pyrenese guard dogs and llamas, so she was able to provide a great deal of information on those. I learned a lot from the workshop, especially regarding how to introduce a guard dog to livestock and the importance of purchasing a dog that was raised on a farm, around livestock. We were given a binder filled with handouts on choosing a dog breed, coyote hunting patterns, etc, which should be useful.

The final workshop was Sustainable Agriculture & Alpacas, led by Karen Dunn, of Angel Fleece Alpaca Farm in Simpsonville, KY. This was, by far, the most informative workshop I've attended on alpacas. She provided some very useful information on alpaca care, breeding, and fiber. She discussed the profitability of raising alpacas for fiber only, compared to doing both fiber and breeding. One thing that really stuck with me was the information she provided about the specially formulated alpaca feed that is always suggested. We prefer feeding animals natural diets, which means not buying feed such as this. She explained, however, that the feed is actually more of a supplement, which contains minerals that alpacas would normally get from grazing in their natural habitat in the Peruvian Andes. Since those minerals are not available in our pastures here, it is necessary to supplement, and the alpaca feed is the best and simplest method of doing so. We were each given a back issue of Alpacas Magazine, which contains several articles the instructor felt would be beneficial to those interesting in raising alpacas. I also spoke to her after the workshop, and she invited me to attend her farm during Alpaca Farms Days in September, or to drop by and visit her farm store. I'd like to make a visit at some point, if we're in the area.

Aside from the workshops, I spent some time visiting several vendors and talking to people. My first purchase was lunch from Marksbury Farms, of Lancaster, KY. I had a beer cheese burger, which was excellent. I had never considered using beer cheese on a burger, but it added a significant amount of flavor. I'd be interested in trying to make something similar at home. I also had some funnel cake from the Garrard County Lions Club, and some ice cream from Freeman and Wilma Beachy, of Waynesburg, KY.

Of course I bought more than prepared food. I bought a pair of alpaca fiber socks from Wonder of Life Farms, of Lancaster, KY. I also bought some ground lamb from Bluegrass Lamb & Goat. My only other purchase was a ticket for a chance to win a John Deere Gator, that was being raffled off by the Madison County Vetaran's. Andrea also bought several items, including a hanging basket of flowers a book on growing blueberries, written by the instructor of her blueberry workshop, and several soaps and salves from 2 Acres Shy, of Crab Orchard, KY.

During what little time I had free, between workshops and visiting the various vendors, I talked to other visitors to the festival. There were 4 people there who I only knew from online discussions on Earthineer, so it was nice to get to chat with them. I also was able to chat with a friend who I normally only get to interact with online, and meet her husband.

I'm already looking forward to next year's festival. If this year's festival was any indication, I expect that next year's will be even bigger and better. These type of events really inspire and keep me motivated to continue working on living a more simple and sustainable lifestyle. I only wish there were more similar festivals nearby.

Edit: It occurred to me that even though I can't provide details of the workshops, it would be worthwhile to at least mention the workshops that Andrea took at the festival. She started her day with Bluberries 101, then did Basic Backyard Beekeeping. After lunch she had two more workshops, Preservation Principles, and Seed Saving.

Also, I forgot to mention that there were several live demos throughout the day. I set in on the Bokashi composting demo, as I didn't get to do that workshop because of a conflict. I was sitting in the back, so didn't really get to see the demo very well, but it interested me enough that I'd like to do some research. We've been talking about trying vermicomposting for our kitchen scraps, but Bokashi may be another option to at least consider.

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