Home Local News Savanna Institute celebrates 10th anniversary as it hosts annual Perennial Farm Gathering...

Savanna Institute celebrates 10th anniversary as it hosts annual Perennial Farm Gathering Dec. 6-8

Ross Gay will be a keynote speaker at Savanna Institute's Perennial Farm Gathering, a virtual event for people interested in sustainable, regenerative, and perennial agriculture. (Photo supplied.)

The Savanna Institute has spent a decade now in the field of agroforestry awareness and efforts, and they are excited for another annual opportunity to share that work and welcome other agroforestry and perennial agriculture enthusiasts to do the same at their Perennial Farm Gathering to be held virtually over three days from Dec. 6 to Dec. 8.

Agroforestry and perennial agriculture are both environmental and social efforts that look to approach growing crops, raising livestock, and other farming practices in sustainable and generative ways, often by implementing trees and shrubs into the ecosystem along with other practices. Communications Project Manager with the Savanna Institute, Jacob Grace, gave some insight into how the gathering that started out as a dozen or so people on a farm transitioned online in 2020 and grew from there.       

“We’re really excited for this year’s event,” Grace told Madison365. “Last year, we had almost 500 people sign in to some portion of the event. It’s grown a lot from originally having everybody come visit a farm or something. We’re really excited for this year’s speakers, and that was how the planning for the event really kicked off … with the confirmation from Ross Gay and from Robin Wall Kimmerer, who’s another keynote speaker who also has some connections in the Madison area. Thinking about their writings and their work, a theme developed around thinking about joy and gratitude, and how that fits into the work of agroforestry.”

While being physically in community can often give a more connected feeling, a benefit of the decision to move online is in the expanded access there now is to the three-day celebration of agroforestry. One of the most celebratory aspects of the event that anyone can partake in will kick off the first day on Dec. 6, and has been a staple since the first gathering 10 years ago.

“One of the things that started at the earliest Perennial Farm Gathering that we’ve continued and [are] going to do again this year is what we call our Nutshell Talks. Anyone who is attending can give a five-minute presentation to the entire crowd about what they’re doing. I think, for most people, that’s their favorite part of the gathering,” said Grace, explaining how the transition to Zoom changes the process, but the effort to give everyone who wishes to speak their time remains.

“We get people from all over the Midwest, and now that it’s virtual, all over the world. We’re getting people from other countries, too. Often it’s people that are working in pretty rural areas, or areas where they feel a little bit isolated. Maybe there’s nobody nearby them that’s really doing the type of farming that they’re doing.”

The first day will also feature keynote speaker, author and scientist, Robin Wall Kimmerer, and the second day on Dec. 7 will feature poet and orchardist, Ross Gay, as keynote speaker. Grace is sure that attendees will find many ways to connect and engage with others as the fairly niche interest draws a crowd from all different, often rural, parts of the nation and globe. 

“There’s always this tendency to get really into the ‘how’ when you have all these people who are nerdy in a good way about agroforestry,” Grace explained. “They want to talk about how to plant the trees, how to raise livestock, and I think with this year’s speakers, we’re really encouraging people to think not just about the ‘how?’ but the ‘why?’ Why are we doing this? What keeps us inspired? And what keeps us doing the work? Because it’s not always easy, it can be really hard.” 

To learn more about the Savanna Institute and their upcoming Perennial Farm Gathering, visit their website here.