:: A tiny series on my experience with the Wisconsin Permaculture Convergence ::
I traveled to the gorgeous driftless area recently for the Wisconsin Permaculture Convergence. As soon as I left the interstate, I entered a different landscape.
The convergence was held at Kinstone, Fountain City, Wisconsin.
Accommodations: The weather was PERFECT for this outdoor event. Truly lovely weather. (As if we could control weather.) I loved that we were mostly outdoors. Two of the four presentation sites were outdoors under tents, two were indoors, and three were tech-enabled for slideshows. The Kinstone building was one presentation site; it was completely enclosed and had tables and chairs. The main tent was outdoors and seating was on your own — either the ground or a folding chair that you supplied. There was no wi-fi, but I had plenty of cellular and data service. (My signal was so strong that I received three swarm calls and one swarm email during the weekend. I was also dealing by Facebook message with a cut-out from the week before. Sorry if I was distracted during your presentations, everyone. Also to my yurt-mates, this is why I didn’t stay on-site overnight — it was me dealing with bees, not you. I was fleeing to town in search of a place to set up shop with my laptop before the sun rose again.)
Restrooms were portapotties. Nearby were handwash stations. Everything was very clean. I expect clean with a permaculture crowd! Trash bins helped keep the grounds clean; the compost bins were easy to find for our compostables. (I really appreciate recycling and food waste bins at non-permaculture events, too.)
Accessibility: This type of event is always a challenge for inclusion of physical disabilities. Working with honey bees is done outside so this issue is not new to me. The short distances between workshops would have probably worked out for strollers and wheelchairs with big wheels, but the driveways and paths were not smooth and the ground was not terribly even, so those of us who are unsteady on the feet may have needed assistance. I think this is where you need to be honest with yourself and ask the organizers in advance, before you register, for information and/or help and/or possibly seek a different event. Just in case.
Food: Fantastic in every way and included in the registration price for those who registered early enough. I would have appreciated a little informational signage at the food truck window, similar to the way WFAN serves their meals — what I’m eating and where it was grown, maybe info about those who prepared the food. If you were looking for sweets, lemonade would have been your only/best option. Or bring your own. Self-serve coolers of water and lemonade were always filled. Coffee was available, donations appreciated. The morning meals were potluck-style, bring your own serviceware. I didn’t take any food photos, but trust me, the food was great. (– up on the soapbox — If you are an organizer of any honey producer event where I may be in attendance, please note that local sources for at least half the components of a meal can be standard practice for your industry, too, and that I appreciate it. Honey is not the only local food that you can source! — off the soapbox –)
Sessions: The workshops were divided into four sites under the categories Main Tent, Fair Share, People Care, Earth Care. There were no empty slots for presentations. A range of topics made for some tough selections. Enough time was given in the sessions that I attended to allow for question and answer time. The presenters I had were personable, knowledgeable, mostly accessible during the weekend outside of session.
Pricing: In my experience, pricing was right in line for the expertise presented. Work-shares were offered.
The culture: The crowd and the organizers were wonderfully friendly, diverse, sharing, and welcoming in my experience. Name tags for organizers and attendees were different, so if I needed help, it was easy to figure out who to ask. Different name tags for speakers may have been helpful — I wanted to ask questions for the sessions I didn’t attend, and sometimes speakers have head shots that don’t match up with their appearance.