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Sharing 30 Years
Traditional Breeds, Modern Skills – Sharing 30 Years of Breed Conservation was the title and theme of ALBC’s 30th anniversary conference and the event lived up to all expectations. “Sharing” was the operative word and the key to the success of this year’s conference. Attendees learned from a stellar group of presenters, all experts in their fields of endeavor, networked with members from all over the country, sat down together to enjoy fabulous meals featuring rare breed meats and products, and shared their own knowledge and experiences. This was one of the best, attended ALBC conferences to date, but had the feel of a large family reunion.
The conference began with check-in at the humble ALBC office. For many members this was their first chance to visit the ALBC office and meet the staff. Some were surprised at the small size of the office – a real testament to the frugality that governs the careful spending of ALBC’s resources. While some staff and volunteers were there to speed along the registration process, some of the ALBC members checking-in were interviewed by the local media (the Herald-Sun) for a nicely written article about the conference and ALBC’s 30th anniversary.
Then it was off to a set of well-attended, pre-conference clinics. Attendees discussed the marketing of rare breeds, learned how to prepare and cook rare breed meats and products, evaluated chickens for productivity, toured a local livestock processing plant where they learned tips to produce value-added products, learned how to select sheep to retain as breeding stock, and toured a local poultry processing plant where they learned quality control. Since concurrent sessions were offered, many of the attendees that arrived together split to attend different workshops – people were generous in offering rides to those in need.
Friday evening’s reception was held at the Inn at Celebrity Dairy, where ALBC hosted one of the five Renewing America’s Food Traditions (RAFT) regional picnics. Collaboration for the event came from the members of the local chapters of Slow Food and Chef’s Collaborative. The meal, featuring many rare breeds, was wonderful though many of the vegetables grown for this dinner were lost to the drought. Thanks to the warm weather, most attendees were able to dine al fresco while making or renewing acquaintances.
Saturday began bright and early at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center in Sanford, North Carolina – the location for all the day’s events. The first session, entitled “Sharing 30 Years of Breed Conservation,” set the tone for the rest of the day and was followed up by concurrent sessions. Attendees learned how to match breeds to production systems, about silviculture & Pineywoods cattle, and how to raise Red Wattle hogs on pasture. They were informed about the conservation of Navajo-Churro sheep, saving Colonial Spanish horses, and the experiences of micro-dairy & cheese production using rare breeds. There was a session on breeding Myotonic goats for meat confirmation and another on using Noah’s Ark Today to teach science and social studies. Presenters shared their experiences of raising rare breed rabbits on pasture, finding new niches for draft breeds, and using heritage turkeys to draw together a community.
A new aspect of the ALBC conference was an organized poster session. Members had the opportunity to mingle and network during the cocktail hour, prior to dinner. This turned out to be a very successful aspect of the conference. There were fifteen posters on display, each with a representative to answer questions – from breed associations to foundations to farms. Members used this time to find out more about a new breed, to learn about preservation of germplasm, and to get to know other members from across the country. The session was so successful that it took more than a little prodding to move everyone to the evening meal.
The meals were important source of sharing. The Annual Members Meeting was held during lunch, with both current and former ALBC board members present being recognized and asked to stand. During the meeting ALBC staff each reported on their efforts for the year. Dinner again featured rare breeds and was hailed one of the best, catered meals many attendees had ever had. Though our keynote speaker was unable to attend, there was a well-received reading of his essays. Our conservation award winner was also not in attendance, however, a quick dial of a cell phone and she was able to hear the presentation and say a few words. And what would a birthday party be without a cake? Thanks to the thoughtfulness of one of ALBC’s board members, everyone enjoyed a delightful chocolate cake. Whoever said you can’t have your cake and eat too was not at our conference this year!
Sunday morning saw the last of the conference events with a horse type clinic held at Fearrington Village, just north of Pittsboro, North Carolina. Volunteers brought 14 horses of 10 breeds to display while Dr. Phil Sponenberg explained how the differences in shapes and movement made each breed perfect for specific jobs. The breeds were lined up and paraded slowly around a ring, then each breed was displayed in a round pen so that faster movement could be clearly observed. Afterwards the horses and their owners were made available to meet, answer questions, and have pictures taken. This event was a big hit and a perfect way to end this memorable conference.
This article appeared in the ALBC newsletter. As an ALBC member you'll receive 6 bi-monthly newsletters and an annual breeders directory that lists all of our members that have rare breeds and their contact information. New to the breeder's directory in 2008 is a products area where members that have rare breed products can be listed.
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