For most participants, the Northwest Real Food Youth Convergence really started during the early morning hours of Friday, Feb. 12, when folks set out on the long trek to Missoula, Montana. Some carpooled from as far away as Seattle or Boulder, or from Portland via school bus. We took advantage of travel time wisely: homework, napping, making new friends, and of course, dance parties.
At right: Despite long distances traveled, the convergence brought together a super motivated group, shown here doing a rowdy closing circle: “Now step towards the center with a big Yee-haw!” “YEEEEEHAAAWWWWW!!!!”
As newcomers arrived the University Center at the University of Montana Friday evening, waves of energy came over the registration table as people approached and left donning their fanciful nametags. We kicked off Friday night with a comfortable, delicious meal of potpie and roasted vegetables, followed by some fast paced mixers where everyone bounced around providing goofy facts.
Saturday morning started bright and early: we awoke from our church slumber party to bumble towards the fresh brewed coffee smells in the UM University Commons. After breakfast, the group woke up and broke up to fill the abundant array of workshops, including "What is it and how are they run: Co-ops 101," "A Chicken on a Tractor? Exploring the problems, purpose, and practices of the Whitman College Organic Garden and its Chicken Tractor Project," and "Organizing a Real Food Campaign." During time between workshop sessions, students networked, shared ideas and laughed. There was no shortage of fun or energy throughout the day!
We spent Saturday afternoon at a teach-in about building a real food system through policy change, tromping around the UM PEAS Farm (see photo at left), or exploring the nooks of UM's sustainable living experiment, the UM FLATS.
After filling our bellies with the evening meal (which included a local cucumber and tomato salad, wow!) we settled in to listen to stories presented by panelists on the diverse understanding of food sovereignty in the state of Montana. From this point on, the fire was hot, our questions where ravenous and the power of the room overflowed into the halls and late into the evening with impromtu concerts (see right).
On our closing day, we continued with delicious food (the highlight of breakfast was the scones!), provoking workshops, and a thoughtful closing that included a rousing yee-haw circle (pictured above).
It is hard to stay patient with the slow, rocky process of contributing to positive change in each of our communities, on each of our campuses, but the Northwest Convergence gave us a nourishing energy that sparked many conversations, ideas, and action plans. Stay tuned for more updates from students in the Northwest at our regional blog.