Lauren gets some inspiration from the Green Mountain State
A few weeks ago I went to Forget-Me-Not Farm in Tinmouth, VT, where each summer thousands of people converge for a three-day family friendly energy and music festival. Although I’m still aglow after all that camping, contra dancing and mountain air, I also came back from SolarFest with some concrete ideas and a whole lot of inspiration from the workshops I attended and people I met.
While the mainstage hosts continuous live music, vendors vend viand, veg and vegan victuals and anti-war buttons, and children decorate the living art wall, five tents host continuous workshops where you can get your education on. And not to downplay the expertise most of the speakers demonstrated, but people go more for the inspiration than for the edification; we all left SolarFest with a, shall we say, renewed commitment to renewable energy and all the activism, lifestyle quirks and challenges that go with it.
In the Green Building tent were workshops about sustainable construction and renovation, and many homeowners left with the drive and confidence to tackle the projects they’d been considering for years. In the Solar Generation tent, workshops were geared toward a broad range of adolescents, and included topics like WWOOFing and baking nachos in a tinfoil-lined box. Thriving Locally covered anything from bike repair 101 to talking about Vermont’s climate movement, and Renewable Energy could give you a tour of “the Juice Bar”, the power station that dealt with all the wind and solar that was running everything from the mainstage light shows to the vendors’ blenders. Sustainable Agriculture was, needless to say, the tent most relevant to this blog, and perhaps to its readers. It was also, in my opinion, the tent where the best speakers were hanging out. My favorites this time were Lisa Kaiman, the raw dairy farmer* who got us amped up about the food sovereignty, and the Kenneth Mulder of Green Mountain College, who presented on farming without fossil fuels.
Speaking of Kenneth Mulder, that reminds me! The summer interns affiliated with the Botanic Gardens are taking the trip out to the Northeast Organic Farmer’s Alliance (NOFA) conference at UMass, Amherst** this weekend! I hear Kenneth Mulder’s going to be there, and that he’ll be doing an oxen plowing demonstration. Stay tuned- we’ll surely be covering NOFA on the blog!
One other great workshop from Sustainable Ag was by Theresa Snow, who organized a gleaning program in conjunction with a food bank. Gleaning is harvesting excess or unmarketable crops that would otherwise become part of the 96 billion pounds of food lost between production and consumption every year in the US. I got really excited by this speaker, since I could easily see Regeneration one day organizing a gleaning service day trip, perhaps in conjunction with the Multifaith Center or Day to Make a Difference.
My favorite workshop I’ve been to at SolarFest, and one that really stuck with me the first time I went and which I repeated this year, was the Weed Walk. An herbalist midwife took us on a tour around the grounds to identify edible and medicinal weeds and get us to think about how you can get to know a plant. Frankly, useful plants are so abundant that we didn’t walk far at all: Edible burdock grew right next to nutritive and fertility-enhancing red clover, which were right across the path from St. John’s wort for depression and muscle aches. The elder bush by the barn, whose berries help treat and prevent colds and flu and whose flowers help you sweat through a fever, were a stone’s throw from the yarrow that closes wounds, and plantain, for mosquito bites and thorn scratches, was growing all over the path. The weed walk I went to in 2010 got me wildly interested in wild herbs, and getting to know these plants has been a fun side project for me this summer.
SolarFest is a great experience, with something for everyone and all the good people and good vibes you’re imagining it does. If anything I’ve described here sounds fun to you, I highly suggest checking it out next year! (PROTIP: I volunteered, which meant that for three work shifts and the price of a volunteer T-shirt ($12) I got free admission, camping, amazing food, and new friends!) And, in conclusion, I have a crush on Vermont. Why can’t we all just be a little more like Vermont?
*Think raw dairy is scary? I learned a lot of surprising facts from Lisa about how safe and incredibly amazingly healthy raw milk is, and some of the problems with pasteurized milk. Of personal interest to me was how well the animals on some of these small farms are treated. This semi-vegan can’t wait to find a cow-friendly dairy in these parts and try some cruelty free raw milk!
**Don’t pronounce the H, dude.