© 2010 Joshua Stark
Last Saturday, I found myself surrounded by women. Typically not an uncomfortable thing for me (I've two sisters, a mother, a wife, a daughter, and four female pets), it was a tad disconcerting that they all were looking at me. In fact, I was sitting on a stage of sorts, behind a table and with a microphone, a la' Congressional hearings.
I glanced to my right, but no lawyer. Instead, there sat Margo True from Sunset Magazine! Next to her sat Novella Carpenter of Ghost Town Farms, and last at the table a frightfully hideous woman with a well-trimmed goatee and... wait, that's Hank. Whew!
But, how did I end up in such knowledgeable and skilled company? Then I remembered: back in the Summer, I'd agreed to sit on a panel at the BlogHer Food '10 conference in San Francisco. This must be it.
Well, that's what a newborn baby will do to you. Different parts of my brain have to take naps at shifts, and obviously the few cells holding this tidbit of information had been dozing. Nevertheless, here I was.
I had an absolute blast the precious few hours I was able to attend the conference. The morning welcome and breakfast was full to the brim with people way smarter about food than I would ever be. I know enough about food to be dangerous, but only to myself (I know the minimum temperatures and boiling water bath times). These folks are the real deal.
I arrived earlier than most, driving and taking BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit... I can't wait for Fresno's version) to the InterContinental Hotel, a swanky, beautiful place. When the folks started setting up breakfast, then, I had my pick of tables (nearly all of them empty), and I chose the one farthest to the back.
Soon, the only person I knew there, Hank, came along with a friend of his, a gentleman from Atlanta. Then a third man sat down with us.
After a bit, the place was full. Engrossed in fun and interesting conversation, I didn't look up from my table much. But occasionally a person would walk by, glance at our table and declare, "ah, this must be the guys' table." And walk on. After the fourth such comment, I glanced around the room, and, well, we did stand out.
Hank had invited me to speak at a panel on food values, with the focus being urban farming/homesteading. I consider myself a part-time homesteader-in-learnin', so I felt comfortable talking about what I'd learned about raising ducks and a garden and the like.
The panel format was awesome: Fast-and-loose, and definitely audience-focused. The room was filled with a mix of folks, all of them astute food-minded folks, a few farming and homesteading experts, and all of them positive and excited about the topic.
Of course, I was outclassed by the other panelists - authors, James Beard Award winners, and the like. But they were gracious to me, and I provided something they simply could not: Since I'm new and not very good, I was living proof that anybody can do this!
Thank you to the BlogHer folks for putting on a great show, and thank you especially to the Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, for providing me a grand opportunity.
P.S.: If city folks think that urban livestock are problematic due to the smell, they should walk down Mission Street in San Francisco and take one big, long inhalation of that aura. There are spots along the City (which I love), that if you smelled that on a farm, you'd start culling animals for fear of some horrible virus.