2011 Conference

The following were our Speakers and Presentations at the 2011 Virginia Biological Farming Conference in Danville, VA

Management of Food Safety Risks in Canning and Preserving
One way to enhance availability of healthy locally grown foods year-round is through proper preservation. Fresh foods can spoil quickly if they are not preserved and stored properly. In order to preserve foods successfully and add value to your products, it must be done safely. This presentation will introduce attendees to the conditions needed for microorganisms on foods to grow causing spoilage or illness. It will elaborate on how, if these conditions are controlled or changed, then foods can be safely preserved for extended periods of time. The presentation will discuss how to safety can, freeze and dry foods at home to extend their shelf-life. Dr. Renee Boyer has a research and Extension appointment in the Food Science & Technology department. Her research focuses on enhancing the quality and safety of fresh and fresh cut fruits and vegetables as well as juice products. Dr. Boyer ‘s Extension program focuses on consumer food safety education, including safe food handling and preparation in the home, as well as food preservation.

Year-Round Vegetable Production Using Organic Practices
Eliot Coleman is one of America’s most innovative farmers. His determination to grow organic vegetable crops during the winter for profit in Maine has started a revolution among small farmers and market gardeners throughout the temperate climate regions of the world. Thanks to Eliot Coleman’s books such as Four Season Harvest and The Winter Harvest Handbook many Virginia farmers now look forward to the fall as a time to get started in crop production. Organic growers are learning that there are often better opportunities for economic success in the cool “off season” than there are in the warm summer months. Quite a few members of the Virginia Association for Biological Farming remember hearing Eliot speak about organic farming practices used by small farmers in Europe at one of the Sustainable Agriculture Conferences held in Charlottesville back in the 1980s. His first book, The New Organic Grower had a huge influence on thousands of aspiring organic farmers. It gave everyone practical systems to follow in organic vegetable production that really worked. This book brought a great deal of new credibility to organic vegetable production by creating order out of chaos.

Beauty and Bounty: Combining Edibles and Ornamentals in a Sustainable Landscape
Barbara Damrosch has worked professionally in the field of horticulture since 1977. She writes, consults and lectures on gardening, farming and landscaping. She presently she writes a weekly column for The Washington Post called A Cook’s Garden. She is also the author of The Garden Primer (Workman Publishing, 1988) and Theme Gardens (Workman, 1982, Revised Edition 2001) and from !992 to 2002 authored the Page-A-Day Gardener’s Calendar. She was the General Consultant for Taylor’s Guide to Garden Design, published by Houghton-Mifflin in 1988. Her writing has been published extensively in national magazines and for many years she wrote a monthly column for American Homestyle and Gardening. She has served as a horticultural consultant to a number of companies, including Time-Life Books and Smith & Hawken. During the 1991 and 1992 seasons she appeared as a regular Correspondent on the PBS series The Victory Garden. Since that time, she has hosted a special on the Philadelphia Flower Show for HGTV, and co-hosted the series Gardening Naturally for The Learning Channel. From 1979 to 1992 she owned and operated her own firm, Barbara Damrosch Landscape Design, in Washington, Connecticut. She is also co-owner, with her husband Eliot Coleman, of Four Season Farm, an experimental market garden in Harborside, Maine, which produces vegetables year-round, and has become a nationally recognized model of small-scale sustainable agriculture.

Cooperative Marketing of Natural Foods Grown on Local Family Farms
The Good Natured Family Farms brand stands for a community of over 100 family farmers who live in the rural areas surrounding Kansas City, Kansas. Diana Endicott is the Farm to Market Coordinator for this cooperative of sustainable agriculture farmers. They are not certified as organic growers but they do not use any of the agriculture chemicals, antibiotics, growth hormones or the other substances which are not allowed in certified organic production. Diana will talk about the advantages of collective and cooperative marketing in really building a local natural foods industry. Good Natured Family Farms is an excellent model of family farmers working to create a profitable and dependable marketing program.

Growing the Highly Antioxidant Aronia Berry
Dr. Eldon Everhart has helped hundreds of Master Gardeners, college students, and horticulture business people. As a horticulture specialist with Iowa State University (www.extension.iastate.edu/ag/fshort/hort1.html), he wrote numerous Extension and research publications, as well as hundreds of articles for gardening magazines and newspapers. He is a well known speaker at garden shows, conferences, and workshops throughout the United States and abroad. Dr. Everhart is currently co-owner of Everhart Horticulture Consulting business (www.hortconsulting.com/). In 2010, he consulted on mechanization of processing tomatoes in Egypt. He helped honeydew melon growers in Azerbaijan and has consulted on aronia berry production in Canada, China, Columbia, Romania, and South Korea. Hundreds of commercial aronia growers in the United States have consulted with Dr. Everhart. He helped start the Midwest Aronia Association and is a charter member. He estimates that at least 5,000 acres of aronia will be planted in the United States within the next decade.

Government Support Programs – Organic Initiative and Others
The Farm Service Agency (FSA) offers loans for farm ownership, operating, emergency and youth loans. In addition, FSA offers a Farm Storage Facility Loan (FSFL) that includes storage facilities for hay and grain and cold storage for vegetables. The FSA also offers the Non Insured Assistance Program (NAP) to help farmers that grow vegetables, fruit, hay and pasture that can’t be insured through RMA to manage their crop risk due to weather related natural disasters. FSA offers the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) that offers annual rental payments and cost share to establish buffers along streams and wetlands that are adjacent to marginal pastureland and crop fields. Tammy Goodyear is County Executive Director of the Farm Service Agency in Patrick County. She operates a small farm and raises flowers, heritage breeds of sheep and hogs along with dairy and meat goats and value added farm products. Ron Wood is a Program Analyst with the State Office of NRCS, Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Farm Scale Composting – Several organic farmers in Virginia have developed farm-scale composting operations. There is constant market demand for good quality compost by commercial growers and by home gardeners. William Hale has managed a composting operation called All-Farm Organics on his farm in Louisa County since 2001. He uses okara, leftover soy pulp, from a local tofu processing company for the nitrogen source. His carbon materials are primarily wood shavings, waste hay bales and organically-produced grain straw. William will describe the equipment and processes needed to produce volume amounts of compost using a highly aerated compost system. He will talk about the values of compost in crop production and several different systems of production.

Designing Edible Ecosystems: Patterns, Principles, and Processes by Dave Jacke   Ecosystem agriculture attempts to mimic the structure and function of natural ecosystems in food-producing ecologies.  This workshop explores the vision, theory, design, and practice of ecosystem agriculture using the architecture, social structure, underground economics, and succession of temperate deciduous forest ecosystems as the model.  We’ll also discuss and wrestle with the ecological design process as a way to get a handle on how to create these complex systems.

Designing Edible Ecosystems: Perennial Polyculture Design by Dave Jacke
An effective perennial polyculture combines useful perennial plants (woody and herbaceous) in ways that minimize competition, create additive yields, and minimize the gardener’s work and outside inputs. As the most interesting and difficult part of the garden design process, polyculture design challenges our mental models and information limitations.  But it can also lead us to a deeper understanding of the plants, of key ecological theories we need to know, and how they function together to form whole systems.  We’ll design a perennial polyculture during class.

The Healing Effect Of Holistic High Density Grazing On Land, Livestock & Peoples Lives
By focusing on using livestock to heal their land instead of buying expensive inputs, the Judy’s have turned their farm into a very profitable enterprise. Their farms have exploded with quanity, quality and diversity of plants. Greg will cover all the steps that they have used in implementing Holistic High Density Grazing on their farms. The Judy’s ranch in central Missouri and graze cattle, sheep and goats. They direct market grassfed beef, lamb and goat. Greg has written two books, “No Risk Ranching” and “Comeback Farms”.

Planned Grazing and Leasing Land For Integrated Livestock Production - Greg Judy
By securing economical long term leases, the Judy’s have time to use Planned Grazing to heal the previously soil bankrupt farms. This is a win-win situation for the landowner and leasee. By using multi-species grazing you can harvest more solar energy. The Judy’s have 10 farms, 7 of them are leased all within five miles of their farms. By leasing land, you can take the major overhead cost of owning land out of the grazing equation. This frees up capital to purchase animals that eat grass.

Niman Ranch Pork Production: An Alternative to Conventional Hog Production   Niman Ranch and its US farmers and ranchers raise livestock traditionally, humanely and sustainable to deliver the finest tasting meat in the world.  Started in 1972, Niman Ranch has grown into the nation’s largest network of sustainable U.S. family farmers and ranchers with over 650 participating in the pork, beef, lamb, and poultry divisions.  Niman Ranch offers one-stop sourcing for gourmet-natural beef, pork, lamb, poultry and processed products. Niman Ranch is a 100% Never-Ever All Natural Program.  Every pound of meat produced is raised without antibiotics, hormones and fed vegetarian diets.  All livestock is raised humanly in outdoor facilities without the use of confinement.  Niman Ranch pork producers are protected from low prices by marketing agreements, floor prices and premiums.  Come and listen to see how you can become a pork producer for Niman Ranch.  Mark Lane Director of Live Hog Operations, Niman Ranch Latimer, IA

Social Networking 101 – One of the greatest changes in the business world in the last few years has been the development of marketing programs that reach consumers through Facebook and Twitter. Many Virginia farmers, however, are completely unfamiliar with these powerful new social networks. Theresa Nartea, Extension Specialist – Agribusiness and Marketing at Virginia State University, will explain what social networks are all about and how they operate.

Natural Production of Shrimp in Freshwater Ponds
Dr. Brian Nerrie discusses how freshwater shrimp farming is an excellent agriculture diversification for the small-farm operation.  Shrimp is the #1 seafood consumed in the United States.  Shrimp production also addresses concerns about food safety and the increasing demand for locally produced high quality food.  David and George Ingram, tobacco producers from Keeling, VA in Pittsylvania County decided in 2010 that they would grow freshwater shrimp.   A ¾ acre pond was constructed and filled with water from an existing farm water supply.  Shrimp (size = approximately 100 per pound) were stocked in early June after fertilization stimulated the growth of natural pond organisms. Harvest took place in late September following daily feeding and water quality management.  Approximately 600 pounds of shrimp that averaged 10 per pound were harvested.

Production and Wholesale Marketing of Organic Apples
Anthony Owens owns and operates Windy Ridge Farms near Hendersonville. This orchard that had been his family’s rock for more than 30 years was looking more and more as if it might tumble out from under him. Gerber Products Co. had closed its Arden plant in 1998 after 40 years, taking with it a good chunk of the demand for local apples. On the world market, meanwhile, fruit prices were continuing their downward spiral. In 2000, Anthony Owens began converting his apple orchards  to organic management. Through hard work and dedication, Anthony has become the largest commercial organic apple grower on the Easto coast with over 200 acres.  Growing apples organically is much more expensive and labor intensive, but organically certified fruit brings a premium price. It also allows Anthony entrance into specialty stores like EarthFare, the Hendersonville and Asheville food co-ops, and large chain health stores like Whole Foods.  Using On-Farm Research grant funds from the USDA- SARE program, Owings has worked with over 40 organic crop protection companies. These companies donated products which Mr. Owings and the cooperating fruit growers used to evaluate their effectiveness on five farms during the last ten years. Some of the organic controls were not useful, while others proved to be very effective in controlling insects and diseases.

Production of Certified Organic Feed Grains
Dr. Reberg-Horton works with organic field crops, particularly corn, soybeans and wheat. Organic wholesale buyers in this state are purchasing an estimated 1 million bushels of these crops, primarily from other states. North Carolina was the leading producer of organic eggs in 2005 and the industry continues to grow. An increasing number of farmers are trying to enter this new market and are working with NC State researchers and county agents to identify the production challenges in our region. Dr. Reberg-Horton was raised in Fairview, a small mountain community in western North Carolina. He received his B.S. at UNC in Environmental Science. For his M.S., Dr. Reberg-Horton went to the University of California at Davis where he worked on crop modeling in the Department of Agronomy. After working with Cooperative Extension in California and North Carolina, Dr. Reberg-Horton returned to graduate school at NC State where he worked with Nancy Creamer on his PhD. His thesis project examined the potential for breeding cereal rye to be more allelopathic to enhance the weed control obtained from this popular cover crop.

Renard Turner owns Vanguard Ranch Ltd with his wife Chinette Turner. The central part of the operation is commercial meat goat production with an emphasis on the marketing of value-added, gourmet quality, ready-to-eat goat meat products. His farm supports sustainable and organic practices and takes farming as a lifestyle choice. Renard’s interest in agriculture began in high school while living in California, where he participated in agricultural science and engineering classes. This lifelong interest has led to the raising of everything from sheep and ostrich to meat goats. His stint as National Secretary of the American KIKO Goat Association led to a greater understanding of the meat goat industry. His focus will always be on producing the best all-natural products. He integrates goat manure into organic vegetable and herb production, wasting nothing on the farm and building a living soil.

Selecting and Developing Sustainable Livestock Breeds  
What role does each animal play in restoring health to the land?   Whether you’re a homesteader or farmer, should you choose heritage or commercial breeds? How should the animals be cared for, and what about parasites and illnesses? Should you sell products directly to customers, or sell through retail? With no farming background whatsoever, Tim and Liz Young founded Nature’s Harmony Farm only 4 years ago. Today, they deploy cows, sheep, pigs, geese, ducks, rabbits, turkeys, chickens, donkeys and dogs in a symbiotic dance that nurtures the animals and the land. Learn how they selected the right species for each job, chose the best breeds for their environment and why they found it critical to breed all livestock, including meat chickens, on farm.   Nature’s Harmony Farm has been featured by The New York Times, NPR, ACRES USA, CNN, Southern Living, Fox News, The Cooking Channel and RFD TV.

Spanish Translation Available – In 2011 we are making a special effort to welcome Hispanic families to participate in the Virginia Biological Farming Conference. The plenary presentations and breakout presentations designated with two red stars will be interpreted in Spanish. This simultaneous translation can be heard in Spanish through wireless earphones. Spanish speaking participants who want to reserve this translation service should contact Carlos Ulloa at 804-524-5639 or Dr. Reza Rafie at 804-524-5840 on Tuesday or Thursday afternoons between 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm. **Reservations must be made by Feb. 2, 2011.**