Karen Wynne, Rosita’s Farm, First ASAN Director, Soil Consultant (AL)

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I knew about the SSAWG conference before I moved south. A friend from Virginia had gone to one in Florida and seems to have spent all of her time there drinking the most delicious organic orange juice. But three Januaries passed before I made it to my first conference, ten years ago in Mobile. And those were lean times in the Florida panhandle {where she had moved when she came south}. My job required too much travel for me to do more than grow a garden. I had lived in plenty of places around the U.S., and I could always connect with some kind of rewarding sustainable farming community. The best I had found in Florida was a 2 ½ hour drive to Marianna to clean collards for the New North Florida Cooperative.

So I did finally make it to the SSAWG conference, and I’m sure I still have the notes I took somewhere, but what I mainly remember is meeting some really amazing people and making great connections. The most valuable session for me was the state breakout session. I went to Alabama’s, figuring I wasn’t too far and maybe would have better luck finding a crowd. I met farmers and educators and advocates and researchers, and learned about a new organization called the Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network.

After that meeting, it didn’t take long before I had plenty of sustainable farming community to keep me busy and after ten years it’s definitely not slowing down. I tell anyone that’s farming or interested in farming that if they only attend one conference a year, it should be the SSAWG conference. There is nothing more inspiring than being surrounded by over a thousand energetic, creative, curious, and smart farmers and supporters.

I do wonder where I would be if I had gone to the Florida breakout. Growing organic kumquats in Weeki Wachee?    

Shari Hawley