CT NOFA 2011: We're more than shovel-ready, we're shovel sharpened*

Saturday marked yet another successful and exciting CT NOFA Conference, held at Manchester Community College. The biggest difference to me from last year to this year? The number of fellow young farmers/farm enthusiasts/those afflicted with barnheart!

In all of the workshops I attended, all of the conversations I had or overheard among volunteers, vendors and participants, you could feel the optimism and fervor around the commitment to sustainable ag, the local food movement and, perhaps, just a keen interest in becoming more self-sufficient. "Radical Homemakers" author Shannon Hayes definitely drove this point home in the keynote address. She stressed that the so-called "parallel universe" so often attributed to a lifestyle that is less dependent on consumerism is a truly viable and indeed provides more security than mainstream (however you want to define this) connotations of success, economic means and self-worth.

This enthusiasm was further cemented with a screening of the inspiring documentary, "The Greenhorns," which follows young farmers - or greenhorns - throughout the country.  Life for these farmers is challenging, messy and full of economic uncertainty according to outsiders, but the greenhorns love their jobs and their lifestyle. Beyond the documentary, The Greenhorns is a movement and network of hopeful, young and farm-lovin' people who are ready stake a claim in land, grow some food, build community and encourage change. (*Thus the paraphrased tagline of The Greenhorns movement for this blog post). I really, really, really encourage you to see the documentary and/or hold a screening at your home, university or other venue. And, The Greenhorns site itself contains a wealth of information and other fun things for aspiring farmers and growers, including an awesome guidebook, maps of current projects, events and much, much more.

I can't stress enough how important it is for us to take back our food system, and, in doing so, invite others to become a part of it, learn, share and grow together. It's possible and it's already being done; this mindset is certainly growing. The Greenhorns, NOFA and organizations of the like already provide resources for like-minded and equally curious individuals in how to grow food and community. It's up to us to seek out these tools and band together.**

**Interested in knowing more about food? Check out the new "Calendar" feature on the site. If you have any additions, e-mail me.