For about as many years as I have been going to the summertime Wisconsin Permaculture Convergence, I have also attended in the wintertime Wisconsin Garden Expo.
In February 2018, I attended my fifth Expo. On Saturday, while talking with someone who stopped by the Madison Area Permaculture Guild booth about the books we had for sale and what the Guild does, I discovered many similarities between both annual events.
For me, the Expo is a big family reunion. I’ve often described it to friends as “getting together with a couple thousand of my favorite people.” I’ve now found a routine that starts by taking a wintry Friday off, arriving early and when the exhibition floor is less crowded, walking from booth to booth to catch up with some of my garden buddies. I have acquaintances at the Wisconsin Historical Society Press table, the many nonprofits with booths, a couple of friends who work at some of the commercial booths, and bumping into friends along the way. TIP: It’s a lot easier to pick friends out of the crowd on Friday than Saturday or Sunday! I also like to visit booths and make new acquaintances, and Friday is a great day to do this because people are fresh, haven't said “Hi” to a thousand people and aren’t tired (yet) of the blank “booth stare” passersby give them.
The Convergence is a family reunion too. Each summer, I get to hang out with people who were in my permaculture design course from five years ago, folks I hang with at the monthly Madison Area Permaculture Guild meetings, and a wonderful array of those I’ve met through other networks, such as my community garden buddies and people whose books I have read (yes, authors attend the Wisconsin Convergence!) The convergence also provides ample time and opportunity to meet new people at meals, in presentations or the social times.
Then there is the respite that the Expo and the Convergence provide. The Expo, which always happens in mid-February, is my respite from wintry Wisconsin weather, and is a promise of the spring to come. The outdoor exhibits inside the huge hall, the forced daffodils, tulips and hyacinths, even the fake grass and water fountains all remind me that we're just not that far from springtime. I like to browse books I haven't read, try out tools I haven't used and dream of the greenhouse I can’t have (too much shade and not enough space). These things and the seeds that I buy are all reminders that this winter too shall pass, and all I have to do is wait a few more weeks before I can sow some of those "Start 10 weeks before the last frost" seeds under lights in my basement.
Six months later, the convergence is a summertime activity, and becomes a break from harvest or preserving activities. It is the hope and promise of what is yet to come, because I think that people who attend the convergence are inherently optimistic. I think people who attend the convergence understand the difference between self-sufficiency and self-reliance. Self-sufficiency is the idea that someone could build a wall around themselves, whether real or figurative, with no inputs and no outputs beyond that wall. I think that most of the people who attend the Convergence have a mindset closer to self-reliance. This is the idea that by building practical skills AND a wide and resilient network of people we don’t have to know how to do or have everything. Instead, we know what to do or know who to call for advice, or to lend an ear about our latest success or failure - and how we're going to try again.
Speaking of learning and sharing, the Expo is my opportunity to share what I know with others. I have had the opportunity to present twice at the Expo. This year I talked about potatoes, Peru and biopiracy, and several years ago I presented the 10 permaculture principles as seen in my front yard orchard. It was a great way to share permaculture principles with a much wider audience. The convergence is an opportunity for me to share as well. Presentations at the convergence do not have to be about growing unusual fruit or how to hide kale in a smoothie. Last year, I shared how I turned a Volkswagen Golf that was part of the diesel recall scandal into solar panels and an electric car. Permaculture? Absolutely! We're all about sustainability and I wanted people to understand that residential solar panels are far more accessible that people may think.
So whether the convergence is a respite, a family reunion or an opportunity to share or learn, I'd love to meet you there. Whether you lead a session or catch me over a delicious meal, YOU have something to offer and I have something to learn from you.
Read more by Josh at his blog, The Urban Farmer
SESSION LEADER PROPOSAL
We are still taking proposals from people interested in leading a session at the convergence in 2018. If you or someone you know are interested please fill out the form at the link below. Contact us if you have any questions not answered by the information in the form.
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The convergence team is always looking to add additional team members to help with planning, outreach and day of duties. Please send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you would like to help the 2018 Convergence rock as hard as the past four!