Winona is carved out by the Mississipi River, a college town home to Winona State University, where tonight we were hosted by Liz Reach and the Environmental Club at a beautiful auditorium which appeared to be freshly built, as all the seats, lights and machines had a certain feel of newness to them.

Buffet-style goodness at Blue Heron. (Photo S. Yao)

A couple hours before the screening started, we hunkered in at the Blue Heron Coffeehouse, owned by Larry and Colleen, a place that any city or town would be proud to call it's own. We had lunch there and sent out e-mails, and made phone calls in preparations for our remaining screenings, and of course, the encore screening a week from today on Wednesday August 1 in Minneapolis. 

After lunch, we went to the library and made some copies of signs to put on the doors of the science center at WSU.

Another ridiculously good meal, this time at Blue Heron in Winona. Note the fresh biscuits backplate. (Photo S. Yao)

We arrived just in time, as Jenn Baechle of the Bluff Country Co-Op, was introducing the meal at Blue Heron, the same place where we had lunch. The food, prepared in a special event prior to the screening, once again, was phenomenal. The BBQ Beef and Chicken was produced by Mike and Jennifer Rupprecht of Earth Be Glad Farms. We've been blessed many times to share meals at restaurants this trip with the farmers who raised the food. It's a powerful experience, and one that every community would enjoy. Sharing a meal with the people who provide the food that gives us sustenance.

Farmers who raised the food join a community meal before the screening in Winona, MN. (Photo S. Yao)

Larry, the humble and refreshing chef who would rather be called a cook, has found a recipe for the BBQ beef, and for the fresh baked biscuits that is worth passing down for a few generations.

Graham introduces the documentary, and tribute is paid to the many farmers in the audience. (Photo S. Yao) 

The punctual crowd at WSU reached about 50 before I gave a meandering and lengthy introduction to the evening, which concluded with a dedication to the many farmers who came out to watch the movie and partake in the discussion. 

Following, we had an engaged conversation, and were thrilled that a number of conventional farmers came out and shared their valuable knowledge, including the President of Farm Bureau for Winona County, Glen Groth. Glen wasn't on the panel this time, but will be when we return in March.


Jim Riddle talks about resources for farmers interested in transitioning to organic production. (Photo S. Yao)

Jim shared a wealth of knowledge about how farmers interested in transitioning to organic farming could do so, mentioning the wonderful organization MOSES with their legendary conference each winter. He has an admiral command of the farm bill, and the ins and outs of what it takes to become organically certified.


Mike, left, laughs, as Jennifer talks about a blind date in 1983 that got her into agriculture. (Photo S. Yao)

Mike and Jennifer Rupprecht of Earth Be Glad Farms- talked about how they decided to switch to organic in the mid-90s, after decades of conventional farming. Mike mentioned that when his daughter was little, and he would be covered in toxic pesticides he couldn't hold her at the kitchen table because he didn't want to spread the pesticides to her. You could feel the emotion in his voice. After much reflection- Mike's slow to make changes- he decided to make the switch- which took a number of years. They've been successful in the transition, and recommend it.


Jackie talks about the symbiotic relationship between the animals and fruit trees on Hoch Orchards. (Photo S. Yao)

Jackie Hoch of Hoch Orchards talked about she kind of got tricked into farming by her hubby, who made it seem like it was just an orchard, and now, they've incorporated livestock into the equation. Pigs become co-laborers, helping to eat weeds, and minimize the amount of manual labor. She pointed out that every type of food production includes animals as part of a holistic ecosystem, and that she has gone from working on an orchard, to working on a farm.


Audience member talks about the importance of getting local food to everyone. (Photo S. Yao)

The audience talked about a range of issues, from the welfare of animals in the winter, to the importance of getting local food out to all people, to the need to celebrate the enthusiasm of young conventional farmers along with young grass-based and organic farmers. It was an engaged crowd, and they were kind enough to wait around until each of the panelists had given final thoughts, including quotes from Wendell Berry, and call outs for upcoming local farm tours, etc.


The conversation went well past 10, and by the end of it all, many strong connections were made. Now to sleep!



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published this page in Ruminations 2012-07-26 13:08:56 -0400