The Central Alberta Winter Mixer was a fantastic weekend full of inspiring and passionate people! Despite the frigid temperatures, more than 80 people participated over the two days. Some highlights of the Mixer included fun networking activities (the Chicken Mingle was a hit!), an impressive potluck and jam session on Saturday evening, farmer slide shows that featured ten different farms, and farmer yoga on Sunday morning with retired-farmer-turned-yoga-teacher Kathleen Charpentier. Over the two days we also had twelve speakers and workshop hosts share their skills and knowledge. Check out the full session descriptions and some quotes from Mixer participants below.
The whole YA community would like to send a huge thank you to Mel from The Northern Table for cooking such beautiful and nourishing meals! And thank you to Grey Arrow Farm, Reclaim Organics, The Ruby Apron, Tin Forest Farm, Gold Forest Grain, Riverbend Gardens, Holden Colony Produce, Steve & Dan’s BC Fruit, Lazy T Farm, and Crooked Spruce Farms for their incredible food donations. The Mixer couldn’t have happened without you!
“I may have found a wonderful place to live & grow food in community”
“I was inspired to make a plan & move forward into the fear!”
“I overcame social anxiety today :)”
“Barrier I overcame is realizing I can do this and there are more resources & help than I expected”
“I overcame my fear of talking about overcoming barriers”
“I overcame some hesitations to starting to farm”
“Getting re-energized by all the great stories and ideas”
“I learned where to access info about starting a business/farm”
Dale provided an in-depth look at how to use the Business Model Canvas to write down the framework of a farm business. The Business Model Canvas is a great way to test out new business ideas and revamp old ones as well as providing structure for when you write a full business plan. Dale also hosted a mini-workshop where participants filled out the Business Model canvas for their own farm businesses. For more Business Model Canvas resources and free business support and advice check out Business Link!
“I overcame ignorance on what I can do to reach out to Indigenous people in my community”
Chelsea and Molly gave a moving account of Indigenous and Métis world-views on the relationship of people and their surroundings and the importance of responsibility and reciprocity embodied in wahkohtowin. They also recounted the history of Indigenous and Métis farmers on the prairies, which is dominated by policies and broken promises that prevent these farmers from succeeding. We wrapped up the session with a discussion about practical ways that we, as settler farmers, can do to ally with Indigenous and Métis nations in Alberta.
“I learned a bit more about finances!”
Dana gave an overview of figuring out the profitability of different farm enterprises using the Holistic Management Framework. The discussion about what counts as a direct versus overhead cost was quite lively! Dana also hosted a mini-workshop about how to cultivate you farm’s purpose. This reflective session have participants the tools needed to create goals for their farm that align with their personal goals.
“I’m thinking about how my values fit with what I’m currently doing”
Aga gave an overview of the increasing customer awareness about where food comes from and how farming practices impact the land. She talked about how important it is for farmers to convey their values enacted on their farm and how their practices contribute to a more diverse and fair food system. Aga also facilitated a mini-workshop where participants had the chance to write their mission statements for their own farm.
“[I gained] inspiration from Brenda’s presentation”
At the end of the Mixer, Heather, Brenda, and Kristin told their inspirational stories of how they became farmers. It was incredible to hear how farming has made such a positive impact on each of them and how they continue to strive for more resilient and diverse farms!
Takota did an in-depth demo of how to sharpen any hand tool — from straight razors to scythes — using only a basic sharpening stone, a piece of newspaper and a leather belt. It’s definitely empowering to be able to keep your tools sharp and ready for any job! Check out the full details by downloading the free PDF at the Coen Farm website.
Maryann shared her wealth of natural fermentation know-how during her mini-workshop. She talked about the basics of making a brine, how to ferment just about any vegetable, and handed out sourdough cultures to anyone that was interested. The world of diverse and delicious microbes is truly amazing!
Ian is definitely our go-to-guy for all things related to electric fencing. He showed participants how to set up temporary and permanent electric fencing, gave tips on all the best equipment to use, and talked about how electric fencing is used to design an effective grazing plan.
When selling farm products it can be difficult to know what to charge because there are so many components that go in to growing a single product. To help with this overwhelming task Ryan gave a detailed tutorial on how to account for all the costs that go into determining the monetary value of farm products. Participants learned about the various input costs and how to account for product loss and overhead costs.
Alana led a wonderful discussion about how to engage children in the various aspects of farm life. She talked about the various ways that children can be involved in farm tasks and the learning and support needed by children. Participants also shared their own stories of spending time on farms with kids and how it can be a challenging and rewarding experience.