What do all farm conferences or Mother Earth News Fairs have in common? Inspiring days that by default are long and intense. The schedules are chock full of multiple things to attend. Plus, you’re investing time and money into getting there, which add up to the importance of organizing and packing essentials before you go to maximize your experience.
Continuing the theme on optimizing your investment in these events, and in the collaborative spirit of my book Soil Sisters, some women farmers share their key essentials to pack for these events. Pre-planning can go a long way in amplifying the impact of your experience.
Here are 10 key things to make sure you pack for your next farming conference or fair:
1. Small notebook and business cards
“To maximize my networking at conferences, I carry both business cards and a little notebook and pen to write down contact information and key notes about the people I meet and want to follow-up on,” shares Dela Ends of Scotch Hill Farm and Innisfree Farmstay. A small notebook dedicated to each conference where you write everything going through your mind, from contacts to session notes to sketches for that new outbuilding you start envisioning, keeps everything in one place.
2. Immunity boosters
“The downside of all of those people in one place: germs. Remember to prioritize keeping healthy by increasing hand washing thoroughness especially after hand shaking,” adds LindaDee Derrickson of Bluffwood Landing Wool Farm. Not feeling your best and fighting a cold will quickly fizzle your conference experience. Derrickson takes with her homemade elderberry syrup and adds a tablespoon to her water bottle for a natural immunity booster.
3. Healthy snacks
“I find the time in between sessions great for networking, so I don’t want to use that time necessarily to eat,” offers Carly Epping of GreenFire Farm. “My bag always has salty cashews, dried fruit, and 80% chocolate or if I see healthy snacks at the conference I’ll grab a granola bar or fruit for later.”
4. Phone charger
“When I was at a recent event and took a lot of videos and photos, my phone ran out of battery and finding a place to plug it in and then leave your phone to charge was a complete hassle,” recollects Etienne White of HeartSong Farm. “Next time I’m going to invest in a portable battery bank that can recharge your phone on the go.”
5. Clothing layers
“Be sure to dress in layers as you never know what temperature a conference room might be,” advises Betty Anderson of The Old Smith Place. “Being too hot or too cold can really ruin my attention span and I can’t focus on the session.” A wool shawl or a fleece pullover is an easy, lightweight option to pack to add a quick extra layer. And don’t forget comfortable boots!
6. Favorite T-shirts
“I’m a big t-shirt fan as I find wearing t-shirts of farms and other local food places you support is a great way to connect and start conversations,” shares Frankie Koethe of Oahu Resource Conservation and Development Council. “You immediately have a connection with a stranger when they comment on your shirt and t-shirts always are comfortable to wear during long conference days.” Koethe gave me a uniquely designed “You Grow Girl” t-shirt from the Hawaii Women in Agriculture initiative that the Oahu RC&D is leading that should spark an interesting connection and exchange when I wear it to my Midwest events. I loved wearing their t-shirt while putting on my Chinaman’s Hat (Mokoli’i Island) “hat” near Kualoa Ranch on Oahu.
7. White noise for sleeping
A good night’s sleep is essential to maximizing your day, but unknown hotel rooms can often bring a variety of street and guest noises that can disturb your sleep patterns. Joylene Reavis of Silver Maple Emu Farm recommends a sleep app on your smartphone that can play soothing background white noise to help you fall asleep. Sleep apps play different sounds from rain drops to fans so you can choose what works best for you. “I leave the phone in to recharge overnight while the background noise is playing,” she adds.
8. Mason jar and fork
“I bring a Mason jar with a lid to conferences as I find that’s an easy solution for both hot and cold beverages that uses something I already have around,” shares April Prusia of Dorothy’s Range. She also packs a fork in case the conference is using single-serving dishware.
9. Life necessities
Think about all those small things that while you probably won’t need them, having them accessible makes all the difference in a time of need. Long-time farm conference attendee, Pat Skogen, offers her packing list: A couple Band-Aids, toothpicks, reading glasses, breath mints, cough drops, hair brush, tissues, Tylenol, hand lotion and sanitizer, pens, highlighter, Sharpie, paperclips, brochures from your farm business and organizations and events you are involved with, carabiner to hold your keys so they don’t fall out, cash and checkbook for vendors that don’t take credit cards.
10. Carry-it-all bag
The key piece to bringing these essentials together is the right bag that is easy to carry and roomy enough to add in whatever other handouts and conference swag you may collect. I’m partial to my classic backpack that keeps my hands free and has lots of pockets.
Lisa Kivirist, with her husband, John D. Ivanko, a photographer and drone pilot, have co-authored Rural Renaissance, Homemade for Sale, the award-winning ECOpreneuring and Farmstead Chefcookbook along with operating Inn Serendipity B&B and Farm, completely powered by renewable energy. Kivirist also authored Soil Sisters. As a writer, Kivirist contributes to MOTHER EARTH NEWS, most recently, Living with Renewable Energy Systems: Wind and Solar and 9 Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living. They live on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin with their son, Liam, and millions of ladybugs. Read all of Lisa’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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