“This weekend, over 70 young farmers and farming enthusiasts came together for two days of inspiration and connection at Angelic Organics Farm and Learning Center in Caledonia, Illinois. As coordinator of the Biodynamic Association’sBiodynamic Initiative for the Next Generation (BING), I spearheaded the organizing of the event, with help from Upper Midwest CRAFT, Angelic Organics Farm and Learning Center, and several other young farmers.
Traveling from as far as Colorado, Ontario, and Missouri to the convergence in northern Illinois, participants gathered Saturday afternoon for an opening circle followed by a walking tour of Angelic Organics Farm with the farm’s famed founder, Farmer John Peterson (star of “The Real Dirt on Farmer John”).
We started by visiting the greenhouse to see the farm’s soil block maker, and then went outside to see the transplanter specially designed for the soil blocks, as well as several other pieces of equipment.
Angelic Organics has a large collection of tractors and implements, which many of the young farmers were eager to see. As Farmer John put it, “When it comes to farming, you can either do it yourself, hire someone to do it, or get a machine to do it. Those are the only three options I know of. And you might find yourself thinking, as you’re watching someone you hire work, ‘I wonder if there’s a machine that could do this?’”
The walking tour also included the wash and pack areas, and ended by heading into the farm’s main barn to look at the field map, carefully tweaked over 20 seasons to pack an incredible amount of information onto an 11×17 piece of paper, including crop rotations, varieties, and planting dates. The second part of the tour was to be on hay wagons to get out into the fields, but unfortunately the predicted thunderstorms rolled in, so we delayed that portion and crossed our fingers for better weather later in the afternoon.
After the tour, attendees had a choice of two panels of young farmers sharing their experiences. One focused on land tenure and navigating the people side of farming, while the other featured chefs and farmers who are working collaboratively to grow and serve local food. Both panels resulted in lively discussions among the participants, and when the rain came down in heavy, drenching sheets just as it was time to bring everyone back together for a mixer session, everyone decided to just stay where they were, successfully mixing and mingling without any facilitation.
Once the rain let up, the group gathered to share a sumptuous spread of potluck dishes, complemented by a delicious array of produce from the farm prepared by Angelic Organics’ farm hospitality coordinator and chef, April Morris. With plates piled high with salads, dips, pasta, vegetables, grass-fed burgers, and what some called “the best sweet corn in the Midwest,” we all enjoyed new conversations at tables set up in the farm’s former garage turned café….”