Highlights from the Gathering were many! As one person commented, "I loved the variety of all the workshops and relevance of the topics featured," and someone else added, "I got the sense that all participants felt like they were valuable to the larger group and that they all had something they could take home with them regardless of their interest/profession."
For those who couldn't be there in person, several workshop presentations are available online in the FBEN Resource Library. The keynote address from Sarah Waring, Executive Director of the Center for an Agricultural Economy in Hardwick, VT was available on Facebook live, and can be viewed here.
Meals and Evening Events
The Gathering unofficially kicked off with a reception at the Concord Museum, where sponsors and organizing committee members were recognized for their contributions that made the event possible. Equal Exchange sampled chocolate, Woods Hill Table and Saltbox Kitchen provided hors d'oeuvres. FBEN Founding Director, Brooke Redmond honored Alec Webb and Megan Camp, Shelburne Farms' President and Vice President, with a lifetime achievement award, recognizing their humble leadership and significant impact on the work of environmental and farm-based educators.
On Friday evening, Verrill Farm hosted about 100 attendees for a drop-in pizza dinner. With Steve Verrill plowing in the background, guests enjoyed Flatbread Company wood-fired pizza straight from the oven, and a local beer by way of West Concord Liquors.
Saturday evening celebrated the flavors of historic Concord at the Colonial Inn. Guests enjoyed a feast in the rooms where arms and provisions were stored during the Revolutionary War and where Henry David Thoreau resided while attending Harvard. Live music from The Butler Frogs kept the evening especially festive.
Our Impact on the Host Community
In addition to serving the needs of Network members, large events provide an opportunity to make a financial and educational impact on the host community. We were proud that we spent over $20,000 with greater Concord-Carlisle businesses. Ingredients for conference meals were proudly sourced from over 8 local farms, and coffee and tea came from Equal Exchange, a Massachusetts-based fair trade business. We offered Concord-Carlisle educators, farmers, and members of the Concord Ag Network, free of charge, and had nine kids participate in a family workshop track on Saturday morning for hands-on learning about worms, pollinators, cooking, backyard chickens! Between Friday and Sunday, attendees had opportunities to visit 15 farms and gardens on field trips, short courses, and work-and-learn visits.
Thank you Organizers and Sponsors
Many thanks goes out to the lead organizing partners of the 2016 Gathering: Massachusetts Farm to School, The Trustees, Concord Carlisle Adult and Community Education, the Concord Food Collaborative, and Shelburne Farms, which serves as the coordinating organization for the FBEN. We share a vision for an informed and engaged citizenry and a vibrant agricultural landscape that offers access to healthy, locally grown food for all. These partners have watered the seeds of the Gathering since we planted them together in 2015, We are grateful for their support.
Many organizations and businesses stepped forward to be Lead Sponsors Partners. These include: Green Mountain Creamery, Emerson Hospital, Whole Foods Market, Colonial Inn, The Trustees, Woods Hill Table, and the Farm at Woods Hill.
Others donated space, product, money, and time: Appleton Farms, Beauty Counter, Clover Food Lab, Debra’s Natural Gourmet, Equal Exchange, Flatbread Company, Health Warrior, India Hicks, J.McLaughlin, Kids Cooking Green, Lake Champlain Chocolates, Nashoba Brook Bakery, On the Mat Yoga, Purity Organic, Raw Revolution, Shelburne Farms, Spindrift, Stark Sisters Granola, Vermont Smoke and Cure, Whole Foods Market
Making the event available to all regardless of their ability to pay was of utmost importance. No scholarship applicant was turned away; 235 of the 400 attendees paid a reduced or zero registration fee. Again, thank you to significant contributions from several sponsors who enabled the event to be accessible to all.
We'd love to see you soon! In 2017, there will be several opportunities for farm-based educators. These include: Farm-Based Education Non-Profit Management - Directors' Edition! in Havre de Grace, MD in February; ABCs of Farm-Based Education in Shelburne, VT in March; Next Generation in the Garden workshops in Santa Cruz, CA in March; a Human-Animal Interaction Conference in Brewster, NY in April, and so much more. View the events calendar to see more.
As for a larger national conference, we are hoping to be able to host something in 2018, but the jury is still out. Several partners from Chicago to Baltimore and Maine to Minnesota have expressed interest in co-hosting. Are you excited to lend your planning expertise? Contact Vera!