Farm conference draws more than 90

Photo Courtesy of Zack Irving Participants in the recent Alcona Regional Farm Conference gathered on the deck of the Lost Lake Woods clubhouse for this group photograph.

At the first Alcona Regional Farm Conference held last weekend, keynote speaker Kristine Ranger addressed the farming lifestyle and its relationship to concepts from individual lives to legacies for the community.

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. The most 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. Attendees 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.”

Inspiration Alcona’s committee Farm to Fork Alcona invites all farmers or prospective farmers to a meeting at 7 p.m. Feb. 20 at the Harrisville branch of the Alcona County Library that is designed to form an advisory group to help steer Farm to Fork Alcona in the best directions to make Northeast Michigan a major player in the farm to table movement.


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