Friday, March 13, 2009

Thursday Report: Michigan Herb Associates Conference

Just a taste - make a plan to go next March!

Why "Bay" on the sign? That's the Herb of the Year for 2009. Most of the beautiful herb plants in this display were auctioned to raise funds for the terrific 4-H Children's Garden on the campus of Michigan State University. But during the conference they fill the auditorium at Wells Hall with a hint of Spring.

My apologies to John Forti - I must have erased my photo of him at the podium and just got his back here. The conference theme this year (the 22nd year of annual conferences for this great group) was "The Joy of Herbs - Then and Now", and Mr. Forti, who is a garden historian and museum curator of the historic landscapes at Strawbery Banke, (previously at Plimoth Plantation) came through with a very informative talk outlining the history of herbs, "Heirloom and Herb Plants - Living History".

Author Felder Rushing makes any conference a party with his enthusiasm and wit. I missed his turn as banquet speaker the evening before, but my friend Lois told me she hasn't laughed so hard in years.
Mr. Rushing does a terrific job of softening the edges of his very sharp commentary. He makes a point with a smile and a nudge - real gardeners spend time working in their gardens, they have innate taste for beauty, and they can find it in "dirt", and in the slow lane, and with very little cash. They pay attention. They experiment. They share.
They don't follow a garden plan as much as live a gardening life. But he puts his ideas out there in such a way as to make everyone happy. Like all good speakers, he brought more to share than we could get through in one hour - but to watch about a quarter of his slides go past without commentary - thinking of the great stories we'd miss, almost hurt. Nothing like keeping 'em wanting more!
He ended his talk with a reference to the classic "The Day the Earth Stood Still" - I hope while all of my friends were laughing out loud, that they took home his message of leaving a garden heritage for our children, as was done for us.

Is this a great photo, or what!
My prize photo. Notice what's under Felder Rushing's arm? An issue of Tina Sam's Essential Herbal magazine (link). Tina asked members of her Essential Herbal Yahoo group to send in photos of themselves reading the magazine. I though this garden celebrity photo would be a real treat for her and a small thank you. I never would have the chutzpah to ask a speaker for a photo, but last week Tina made a generous donation of magazines that I passed out to all of the herb groups who participated in the educational displays and a whole year's worth of issues to auction in the silent auction fundraiser. Generosity deserves a thank you.
I won't break your computer with another photo of Felder and me, but I'll sure treasure it.

The very same Peppermint Jim that gave a much-praised and peppy talk to the Herb Society's Tea last year.
On a serious note - Peppermint Jim Crosby from the Crosby Mint Farm (link) near St. Johns, Michigan - who is the bounciest character around - spoke on Wednesday, but Thursday after the plant auction he gave away some minty prize packages and I heard for the first time the story of the trials of his fourth generation heritage farm. Small farmers just don't get a break in our dog-eat-dog world, and the Crosby mint farm was going into foreclosure. The banker actually told the family that foreclosing on their farm would be a "victory." Can you stand it!
If you'd like to help save the family farm, go to the website and order some of Peppermint Jim's pure mint essential oil.

Coleen French from French Garden Creations subbed for Jean Riggs who was sick. I really wanted to hear Jean talk on Bay, the herb of the year, but Coleen is a fine speaker, very informative with a lot of visual aids, and her topic was using Lavender. BTW, Coleen sends out a great e-newsletter where she sells her wonderful soap. I must say, Coleen's soap is the reason why I never got into making my own herbal soaps. Why try to top the best?

Appetizers (delicious) Using Herbs, by Sheila Rae - talk about enthusiastic!

The tasty end to another flavorful herb conference. Tomorrow I'll post photos of one of my favorite features of the conference - the educational exhibits.


Jill-O said...

The skinny guy in the 2nd photo looks a lot like Norm Lownds, from the department of horticulture. I remember him from the 4-H Children's Garden, the Master Gardener conference and MSU Garden Day. Was he there?

Betsy said...

Yep, that's Dr. Norm Lownds, I believe he's been chief of the 4-H Children's Garden on the MSU campus since Jane Taylor retired. He's vice president of the Mi. Herb Associates for 2009-10, and university liaison. He deserves a large thanks for all of the work he does on the conference.

Anonymous said...

Having read this I believed it was really enlightening.
I appreciate you spending some time and energy to put this short article together.
I once again find myself spending way too much time both reading and leaving comments.
But so what, it was still worth it!