I felt like my life finally got started today. I was at a farmer's meeting for ASD, and I pitched the idea of a couple of workshops on forest grown crops. I expected almost no interest, but was pleasantly surprised when several of the farmers got really quite excited. I think phrasing is incredibly important in this sort of thing. If I had said something to the effect of "How many of you are interested in Non-Timber Forest products?" probably like one hand would have gone up, if that.
Rather than use that totally valid and scientifically accurate term, I chose to pose the question practically: "How many of you have a little woodlot that you would like to grow something in?" Seven or eight hands went up at this point, out of something like 15 households represented. I had mentioned Shiitake Mushrooms, which can be grown in logs under natural shade. It almost seemed like I had struck a dormant nerve, because everyone seemed to have heard of growing mushrooms but no one had talked about it. People began asking me questions as if I knew anything substantial about it (I don't) and I could see the hunger for this sort of information in everyone's eyes. It felt like I was standing on the edge of a tipping point, like all the ingredients to the reaction were sitting there waiting for a catalyst to kick it into high gear (wow three metaphors!). These people had experience growing things, interest in trying new things, and forest land to grow them on. All they need is practical information, maybe a few seeds, and BAM! we're growing things in the forest instead of cutting it down.
After the meeting, I talked to several of the farmers individually, and found out that some of them already had ideas about where and how they would go about growing things in their woods. One couple told me of their plans to purchase a Shiitake Mushroom kit, another guy thought Goldenseal (a medicinal herb) would grow well on his land. I even got to talking about what to do with Sustainable Woods' scrap wood. This is another problem entirely, but one that I've been thinking about since I saw the piles of woodwaste, more than we could ever burn in our kilns, at the Castlewood sawmill. His idea was to create vegetable boxes and wine racks, which would be labor intensive, but I asked him if he would make a prototype that we could show around.
Needless to say I am really excited about all of this, since its exactly the type of thing I need to learn about if The Plan is ever going to work. I wonder if this is how it feels to be "born again?"
Born all right the first time,