This 3-day weekend of immersion is among the supreme highlights of my year. At no other time do I wish I could clone myself into at least three Ellen’s to attend even more workshops. But there’s also the exhibitors, and the comradery with other growers, their diversity! All too much fun, all so anticipated, all too soon over… but then I get to go out to the garden and put it all to work. Divine!
I feel like I’ve been going forever, but it’s actually only been 8 years. In that time, Spring Conference, has become an essential part of my life, and propelled me into many projects which now cover almost my entire ¾ acre, and there are still many in incubation, and some I haven’t even dreamed of yet… what workshops will I take THIS year? As long as there’s any grass in the yard – there’s more I can do to make it all edible, sustainable and pollinator friendly. The orchard is started, the food forest in, water catchment irrigation, berms and swales – I learned all about them from Andrew and Chuck and Debbie and Ben and so many other amazing teacher mavens at Spring Conference. I haven’t built up the courage to try hosting bees or a goat or two, but I’m almost up to chickens, and mushrooms are on the way. I’ll get to eat the back-bed asparagus this year, the garlic will be better and more than ever because I actually planted it at the right time last fall, and I’ll get to see if my ramp experiment worked. I have lots of fruits and veggies still in the freezer, seeds saved, beds mapped and rotations planned. Thanks to Spring Conference, I know lots of what to do when, as well as lots of what NOT to do, and where to find the rest of the information I need. My yard produces a bounty and a variety I couldn’t have even imagined before I started attending, not to mention resources, contacts, help and friends galore.
The best workshop I ever took at all the Spring Conferences I’ve attended? That’s easy: Bill Whipple’s Humanure Revival, 2012. O-M-G, undoubtedly the funniest, most memorable instructional entertainment of a lifetime, no sh-t!!! And Bill’s Pierre is the centerpiece of this year’s fundraiser farm-to-table dinner, a new highlight for which I can hardly wait, though I don’t know which I anticipate more, the meal or the show.
For transparency, I declare that I now have the honor and pleasure of sitting on the board of OGS and a couple of committees. I’m a volunteer so I don’t get paid to express my love for this organization. The fertility of the Spring Conference has yielded an abundance of organic fruit, vegetables, herbs, flowers and value-added goodies (ah, the mead…) on my little piece of earth in Woodfin, and my unabashed self-proclamation as the unofficial poster-child of OGS is justified: it has brought me from purple-thumbed city girl novice to full-fledged intermediate gardener, with a lot of help from friends and contractors. I am forever bloomin’ grateful.
Ellen Rubenstein Chelmis
Ellen Rubenstein Chelmis retired from manufacturing to start her fourth career as wife and mother at 37, she now, at 63, enjoys dabbling in various voluntary efforts to “save the world.” She’s a self-trained creative cook and lover of ethnic cuisines and her consistent passion for food has evolved to embrace the Local Food movement, so much so that she now grows food in her front yard (can’t get more local than that!). If Ellen can do this, anyone can. Ellen is a 13-year transplant to Asheville via Tampa, Washington DC suburbs (most of them) and Charlotte.