Every winter for the past few years Kalynn Spain and some of her producer friends have taken turns hosting potlucks. Spain found these informal meals were a great way to share stories from the summer and support each other in decisions about the spring.
“These potlucks were really helpful for me personally,” she said, “because they helped me feel motivated during the coldest months of the year when it’s hard to think about what to do or what the coming year will bring.”
She suspected other producers might feel the same so the ‘freelance farmer,’ and founder of Small Farms Manitoba, started organizing.
“Obviously winter affects all farmers but the potlucks are a really good way for producers to connect and support each other in the off season.”
Spain said the potlucks this year would be mostly informal — largely free of organized speakers and panel discussions.
All the meals will be near Winnipeg, so as to encourage aspiring farmers to attend. Danielle Mondor, from Fort Whyte Farms, hosted the kickoff potluck on November 15.
“All the food was homegrown and reflected the work that we do,” said Mondor. She described the citrus lamb slow-cooked stew made by Sarah Ryves from Willow Farm Wollies, a heritage squash from the Canadian Mennonite University farm, the canned salsa, kale salad and homemade sauerkraut.
“It was all delicious,” she said. About 15 people attended the first meal — a mixture of second-generation farmers and new farmers. Bruce Berry, from Almost Urban Vegetables in St. Norbert, spoke about the working group created by the Manitoba government to clarify small-farm regulations.
“It’s something producers and farmers don’t have a lot of time for and really there’s not a lot of resources for us so it was great to hear that update and connect over that,” she said.
Ultimately the potlucks are about bringing people together over good food and conversation.
“Something like this that is so informal can strengthen our farming systems,” said Mondor.
The potlucks are just one of the ways Spain, through Small Farms Manitoba, gathers small-scale producers. She’s also organizing a conference January 10 at the Oak Bluff Recreation Centre that will feature speakers on a variety of topics including sausage making, on-farm grain milling, hosting interns and hiring farmhands, farrowing pigs and selling to wholesale markets.
Spain is also organizing a monthly small-farms tour, beginning in February and going into the spring. “The idea is to get people from the city out to the farm and learning about that particular farm.”
Producers, or aspiring producers, interested in attending the potlucks or the small-farm tours can email Kalynn Spain. The next communal meal happens December 13 and the location is to be announced. The potluck schedule and a list of other events, including updated information on the conference, can be found on the Small Farms Manitoba events page.