This last weekend was the annual US Federation of Worker Co-ops conference and this year it was in the Bay Area. I actually prefer when conferences I want to attend are in other cities. Ones in my own backyard always sneak up on me and I never end up attending as many panels as I want or getting that conference experience of meeting new people or having those on a break/at the bar/ downtime discussions with people that are often the most valuable part.
No, instead I ended up doing odd tasks. I enjoyed my tasks, don’t get me wrong, but between not getting my shift covered on Saturday and sleeping in on Sunday I missed pretty much the whole event.
My best task – being one of the few Bay Area co-op folks with a car — was getting to pick up and drop off our keynote speaker, Jim Hightower. Oddly enough, Hightower was actually the keynote speaker at the Cheese conference in Austin last year. Except for my own workplace and hanging out with Cheeseboard folks, those two parts of my life do not often collide!
If you have never heard Jim Hightower speak, he is one of the best: energizing, funny, populist, and smart. Laurie used to listen to his Ag reports when he was the Agricultural Commissioner of Texas and she was growing up, so I borrowed some of her Texan credibility by mentioning her a lot. I am pleased to say that Commissioner Hightower was great one-on-one as well. Good thing, since we hit traffic and had about an hour in the car together on the way to his hotel.
The other thing I got to do was set up cheese for the conference’s opening reception. I got one of those last Wednesday saying that the food donation for Friday hadn’t come through and did I have any old cheese lying around… I put out the word and we ended up having quite a spread! Check it out:
This got devoured! The co-op people were hungry after a long day of cooperating. I replenished this table a couple of times and still there was little left but scraps after the hour and a half reception. (Don’t tell anyone but Laurie and I ducked out for chile rellano burritos midway through)
For more coverage of actual conference content, check out The Workers’ Paradise blog written by John McNamera of Union Cab in Madison, WI.