With the talk at the Ypsi Co-op on Oct. 7th, the second year of Preserving Traditions winds down. This seems like a good time to think about where to go with the group in 2011, and I’d love your input.

Recap: What we did this year

It’s been a busy year – a total of 22 workshop, demos, and work days in Ann Arbor. All but five of those were taught by yours truly, and eight were in the peak season of July-September. I also turned down half a dozen offers to teach at other locations; I just couldn’t meet all the need for all the interested folks out there! I really love teaching, and I leave events more energized than I arrive. I do need to remember to pace myself, though; more than two sessions per month (even if I’m just organizing and not teaching) is pretty brutal.

I taught at some new venues outside the Grange this year, including the Re-Skilling Fair, the A2 Farmer’s market, Downtown Home and Garden, and St. Joseph’s Hospital Women’s Center. Sylvia Nolasco-Rivers also led a workshop at her business (Pilar’s Tamales) that sold out in 3 hours.

What’s inspired me this year

  • The Detroit Zymology Guild is a group that gets together to pickle and can all sorts of amazing foods – some of which were “wild”-harvested in Detroit.
  • The concepts of permaculture and edible landscaping.
  • Low-energy cooking, such as solar ovens and rocket stoves.
  • Local foodshed-building projects such as the Farmer Fund, which helps local farmers build hoophouses to extend the local growing season.
  • Rob Frost’s One Straw Revolution and his efforts to put a potato patch and willow coppice in every suburban lot to radically increase home food production – and his observation that we need to dramatically step up home food production, more than one potted tomato at a time.

Room for refinement

I have learned that I am not cut out for market demos. For one, I’m not great with heat…I nearly passed out while demoing raspberry jam this year. :/ For another, you can’t really learn how to can just by walking by a demo, and that’s all most people have time for. And as I get more requests to teach, I want to focus on maximizing the number of people who can then go home and use the skills I’ve just taught. So I think in 2011, I will reduce the number of “walk-by” events I lead.

I am also wondering about the balance of teaching people how to can, and actually getting jars into pantries. The revelation to me from the salsa work day was that yes, we canned about 80 pints of salsa, but it took 60 worker-hours to do so. We could easily have made as much salsa in that amount of time with half the people. But is the point food in jars, or know-how in heads? (This is one point I’d especially like y’all to help me think through.)

One thing I do know…I can’t teach 8 workshops in 3 months while working full time, maintaining my own garden, canning my own produce, and not taking any extra vacation time. I think I’ll be scaling back the garden next year, as that is the most easily replaceable item, given our excellent markets in this area. I don’t want to cut back on teaching – in fact, I’d like there to be *more* teaching – but stressing out the way I’ve done the last 2 years isn’t something I’d like to make a regular feature of my summers from now on.

Preserving Traditions Boot Camp?

One option, of course, is that I don’t need to be doing all the teaching. I have been toying with the idea of leading a “train-the-trainers bootcamp” for people locally and from afar who want to teach similar classes. I would love to have a network of people in town who could field some of these requests for teachers. I know many folks who are capable cooks, but I don’t know if you want to teach. (If you do, please let me know!) I’m wondering – are there folks out there who are good cooks and canners, but not sure if you’re ready for the teaching aspect? Would you attend a workshop (potentially multi-day) that would teach some kitchen skills and some “how to lead a workshop” skills? With a chance to try teaching in a supportive environment with lots of feedback? (My day job is teaching teachers how to teach, so you’d be in good hands.) I would have to charge for such a workshop; what would you think is a fair price for two and a half days of instruction, plus breakfast and lunch? Take the survey about camp here.

Oh wise friends…help guide me! Leave your comments here or mail them to preservetrad@gmail.com. Together, Yes! We Can!


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