Garlic is Life!
Symposium and Festival
Please E-MAIL Darrell Merrell if you have any questions about the Festival.
Due to a lot of phone calls and unannounced drop-in customers, I was late in starting out and arrived too late Thursday night to attend the get aquainted garlic tasting session. Of course, I had the driver's equivalent of jet lag Friday morning resulting in difficulty in finding the meeting place, so I was a little late and arrived just as John Swenson was finishing up his excellent presentation, I caught the last 10 minutes of it. I realized, right there, too late, that I should have shot that last unannounced drop-in customer and left home earlier, even if it were considered poor customer handling technique. This was too good to miss. I had always wanted to see the topography, soil conditions - if that is what you can call the rocky, thin, sandy dirt (even the word dirt seems generous) they were growing in. Actually, I would like to see a book or video about the trip, I think it is fascinating. Few of the garlics we grow today would be available to us if it weren't for that trip and the people doing the collecting. Security concerns would probably have prevented the trip from happening at any time before or after it did. We are all very fortunate that this trip took place at all - without it, what would we have to grow?
The coffee breaks were every bit as good as the seminar sessions because you could meet all these neat people and ask them questions and have discussions with them. I felt almost as though I was among royalty of a sort. Garlic does indeed give one an enhanced feeling of well being. I got to have lunch and talk with Chester Aaron and Bob Dunkel, found I had a lot in common with them and came away with a feeling of newfound friends and the little glow that always comes with it. Chester is like a favorite uncle and Bob is like a good buddy - both are likeable as well as respectable. I also enjoyed my conversations with that Burl Ives look-alike who grows tomatos and has wonderful garlic breath, Darrell Merrell, whose tireless energy brought this whole thing about. I can only guess how much work it must have been to do this, I'm just glad he did and I have no doubt he dearly earned everything that ultimately comes to him as a result of this hard work and I hope he throws an even bigger party next year.
While I enjoyed all the seminars and felt I learned something worthwhile at each of them, and felt each of them to be worth coming to Tulsa for, I really enjoyed meeting the people involved in garlic today. Dr. Gowsala Sivam's presentation on the physiology and health benefits of garlic were was fascinating and informative and the discussion of culinary aspects of garlic was entertainingly well done by widely known cookbook authors Fred and Linda Griffith.
It was almost a religious experience to watch names become faces and faces become friends. It was like meeting the pioneers of a modern frontier of learning. After all, garlic is one of the last unknowns of the world - everything else seems to have been charted and dissected to the nth degree. Yet garlic, perhaps the oldest plant cultivated by humans, remains such a mystery.
I was especially interested in Dr. Phil Simon's presentation on his work in hybridizing garlic. I would like to see and hear more from him as he seems as likeable as he is knowledgeable. I hope to develop an ongoing correspondence with him. The same thing applies to John Swenson. Sitting in on discussions with these and others was soothing to the soul as well as highly informative. Nowhere else could the questions be asked or the answers obtained.
Someone mentioned that this gathering was the greatest concentration of garlic intellectuals ever. I don't know if that is true or not, but I do know that any such gathering would have to include many of those present. What a feeling!
I enjoyed meeting and talking with Chester Aaron, John Swenson, Bob Dunkel, Doug Urig, Darrell Merrell, Dr.Phil Simon, Dr. Rich Hannan, Stanley Crawford, author of A Garlic Testament - Seasons on a Small New Mexico Farm and other people whose names I have seen in print and they all seemed as anxious to meet me as I was to meet them and it was as if we had known each other for years. Not only was this a summit meeting of the Who's Who of garlic people, but it was like a big family wedding with feasting and dancing and merry-making. Friday night as the feast and the dancers wound down, when I was as stuffed as I dared get, I went out in the arcade and played my Indian flute by the fountain, another very spiritual experience. I also played some during the bazaar on Saturday between inspiring performances by a bagpiper and a delightful Celtic band.
I can't say enough about the feast that took place on Friday evening; it was worth the drive by itself. Everything had garlic in it, including the wine and the garlicky belly dancers whose music and movements made this a feast in the truest sense of the word. Each chef had his own work area set up and you could wander from station to station and watch each one cook his specialty just for you. Being right there with all the sights and sounds and smells of master chefs plying their arts, pleasant conversation and laughter, truly gives one an enhanced feeling of well being. Even if you never ate a bite, you could get a garlic high just from the delightfully overwhelming aroma - it was awesomely scrumptious! How do you describe a deliciously heady, earthy aroma so pervasive that it saturates the senses?
I don't know how many chefs (8 or more) were cooking or courses (16 or more) were served at the feast on Friday night, but I was impressed and overwhelmed with their professionalism and their dishes as well. What an evening! If Will Rogers had been there, he would have had to say "I never met a garlic I didn't like." The talk in the auditorium afterward further endeared Chester and Darrell to all of us. It was a warm, fuzzy, pleasantly garlicky evening. I felt almost giddy not only about the get-together, but about the future as well - it looks stinkin rosy from here.
It was good to get to know Doug Urig, Publisher and Editor of Mostly Garlic Magazine and Bob Dunkel, Editor of The Garlic Press - The quarterly newsletter of the Garlic Seed Foundation of Rose, NY., and get the publishers perspectives on things. I think we all have a vested interest in seeing them succeed in their ventures - doubly so since we are all friends now and not just names printed on paper. Those of us who have a lot of contact with the general public need to do all we can to motivate people to join and subscribe.
I enjoyed getting to meet some of the other growers and came away with favorable impressions of all of them. I had some prior telephone exchanges with Walt & Liv Lyons of Yucca Ridge Farm and also Dean & Mary Sue Sedinger of Garlic King Farms - both farm in Colorado. I got to meet Bob Zimmerman and Wendy Douglas, of Bobba-Mike's Garlic Farm in Ohio. We were all so busy taking it all in, there was little time to visit with each other. I felt like a little boy at the carnival, there was so much to see and all the glittering lights, and music and dancing and excitement and suddenly it was over and time to go home and I felt a sense of painful parting - there was so much unfinished and untalked about. Time and circumstance sent us scampering home to dig out from under a pile of questions and answers and unfinished business.
We all agreed that no one can supply the entire market and will happily refer customers to other growers if we do not have what they want. In follow up telephone calls, there was also agreement that we all would like some more time together next year. There were a lot of other growers there I would like to have spent more time with. I also noticed a distinctly organic or sustainable tilt to them. It looks like the increasingly larger buying public is in good hands.
The bazaar on Saturday was fun and a few thousand people came through - not bad for a first festival, though I expect the crowds will be larger next year and each succeeding year, especially if we who attended this year will help publicize it next year. Some of the people attending had seen my website and were anxious to meet me - it was like we were old friends. I bought something from most of the vendors. The setting was delightful, shady and invitingly attractive to those who came and I talked to lots of people who were having a good time. I think the various kinds of music added to the festive air. Would it be possible next year for the chefs to setup booths cooking garlic dishes to order or is there some health dept. restriction?
Saturday night most of us got together for an impromptu farewell dinner at a nice Thai restaurant that enjoyed our being there as much as we enjoyed being there and having yet another sumptious feast. It was very much like a Polish wedding I went to years ago in rural central Nebraska (except for the Thai music - I really liked the flute) where everyone puts down their tools and celebrates the meaning of life and love and feasts for three days. Happy stories around the table, again getting to know more about our newfound friends. I can only imagine what it will be like next year - but as sure as garlic breath is better than no breath, I'll be there to find out.
As suggested by the picture above, one good thing followed another. The merriment continued as if there had been no year-long interruption. The good times and great new information kept rolling in. You wouldn't think times could get any better but they did. From all the presentations through the growers forum and the Friday night great garlic feast, the mood was high and the cooperative spirit soaring, never missing a beat.
The Y2K get-together included most of the people from the first conference and some exciting new faces as well. Author Lloyd John Harris was there to talk about the roots of the garlic movement in the 60's. Kent Whaley of the Seed Savers Exchange delivered a very important message stressing the need for conservation of open-pollenated seedstock. Barbara Hellier of the USDA was there to let us know what the USDA is doing to preserve seed stocks - very important. Maria Jenderek of the USDA's True Garlic Seed project showed us how to take advantage of the their database of garlic. The grower's conference was so good that we're going to double the amount of time for it at the next symposium.
I also didn't think Darrell Merrell and company could improve on the Great Garlic Feast on Friday, but, of course, they did. They improved the only way they could - by having even more chefs cooking even more dishes to a sold-out crowd. The dancers were back and a good time was had yet again by all. I can still smell and taste it all.
I'm anxious for the growers roundtable where growing problems, solutions and techniques are discussed and a marketing discussion as well. I'm looking forward to it all already.
Chester Aaron is the author of Garlic is Life as well as The Great Garlic Book and Garlic Kisses and is also everybody's favorite uncle.
- Coordinator of the Garlic is Life Symposiium. -
- Founders of The Seed Savers Exchange. -/FONT>
- The Tomato Man, With Garlic Breath. -
This is All His Fault!
Other Seminar Leaders and Participants are:
A morning excursion to the Will Rogers Memorial and Museum at Claremore (about 45 Minutes from Tulsa).
Lunch at the famed Hammett House Restaurant in Claremore, then and afternoon visit to the Rogers Ranch near Oolagah where Will was born and grew up.
Wednesday, Oct. 31
Morning Session - The Health Benefits of Garlic
Garlic is Life Symposium seminars 8:am til 4:pm
Morning Session - Speakers Forum.
Friday, Nov. 2, 2001
All Day - Growers Conference
Saturday, Nov. 3, 2001
Festival 9:00am to 4:00 pm (Open to Public - FREE Admission)
Oct. 30 thru Nov. 3, 2001
Your Host - Darrell Merrell
Would you like more information? E-MAIL Darrell Merrell.
an Opportunity to Learn and Grow
If you grow garlic, or are thinking about growing garlic, you owe it to yourself to sit in on the Growers Conference. Where else could you gain masterful insight from experienced growers, explore marketing and distribution options and develop lasting relationships with suppliers, growers and vendors?
Vendors will offer many kinds of garlic to choose from as well as a myriad selection of things that have to do with garlic. Meet with other interested people to discuss growing problems, storage, marketing opportunities, etc.
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