It has taken awhile this year, but with freezing temperatures and a little snow finally sticking around even in the southern valleys, winter appears to be here to stay. Everyone from production farmers to school gardeners can finally breathe a sigh of relief (and maybe some regret) as we finish putting our fields to bed. This quieter time between growing seasons is a chance to evaluate what we have been doing and get ready to do it even better in the future.
“Evaluation,” of course, is way more interesting and useful than a formal judgment of success or failure. Ever swap stories and ideas with a neighbor or co-worker? Sharing and reflecting on your experiences is an extremely valuable informal evaluation method. Even when we grow the same crops, or teach the same lessons, no two farmers, educators, or service providers will implement their work in quite exactly the same way.
This is the right time of year to look up from your own individual grindstone, and get together to pick up – or pass on – new tools, tips, tricks, or even whole new approaches.
Maybe a potluck is more your speed – whether it’s a solstice get-together with friends in the same line of work, or a more organized meet-and-greet event put on by your local food-systems nonprofit organization. Or, take the plunge and register for a session, a day, or a whole weekend at a conference. And if you can’t travel to an event, more and more organizations and events are offering online resources that let people communicate and learn at their own pace.
You may be looking to check your visions against other people’s experiences, or maybe your expertise could help save newbies from reinventing the wheel. Whatever your goals, there are a variety of events near and far that it’s well worth the time to attend. On the theme of not reinventing the wheel, here are some existing calendars and information hubs that can tell you who’s getting together, what they’re talking about, and how to get into the conversation. Of course there is some overlap—but hopefully, there’s an event or forum to help you shape your own winter wonderings into reflection, evaluation, and action.
*Please add links to your favorite calendars and connection points in the Comments!*
Kids, Youth, and Farm to School
Vermont Food Education Every Day (VT-FEED)
Agricultural Service and Technical Assistance
UVM Extension has put all these weekly and monthly listings in one spot, or you can link to them individually: Extension Events, 4-H, Across the Fence, Building Capacity, Coping with Separation & Divorce seminars, Maple, New Farmer Network, Operation: Military Kids, and of course, the Women’s Agricultural Network
Also see the Center for Sustainable Agriculture
State and Regional Food System Groups
Local Agricultural Community Exchange (Barre area)
Post Oil Solutions (southeast Vermont and southwest New Hampshire)
Rural Vermont (statewide, based in Montpelier)
Food Works at Two Rivers Center: “planting seeds to feed a changing world”
Vermont Community Garden Network (statewide, based in Burlington)