Virginia Association for Biological Farming

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Farmers Sought for Buckwheat Trials

VABF is partnering with Virginia State University and Virginia Tech on an evaluation of Buckwheat. VABF is organizing the farmer testing of buckwheat as a cover crop.

We seek 4-5 experienced VABF growers to evaluate buckwheat as part of their production systems. Farmers should:

  • Have at least 7 years experience with organic production
  • Have four years management and cropping records for their current farm.
  • Management needs to be consistent with Certified Organic or Certified Naturally Grown.
  • Have two horticultural cropping areas/beds/field; each at least 10’ x 40’; to dedicate to the research for the entire season and seed to buckwheat by July 1. This site should be accessible to small-scale equipment.
  • Have the capacity and flexibility to plant on recommended/agreed planting dates.

Buckwheat seed will be provided.

  • Plant an agreed short season crop following the buckwheat. Seed for this crop will be provided.
  • Work with technicians to get accurate weed assessments and yield data (~ three ½ days of work.)
  • Participate in three conference calls and three half-day meetings in a central location each year.
  • Hold a VABF Field Day featuring the buckwheat (and some of your other farm features) in late summer.
  • Repeat this project in 2016 in a different field/bed.
  • Farmers receive a small honorarium to help cover costs.

If interested in participating in this project, email

Geographic distribution and soil type will be considered as farms are identified for the trial. We anticipate other on-farm research opportunities in the future, so let us know of your interest.


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Pay Attention to the NOSB!

The USDA standards for “USDA certified organic” were being revised last week. Every six months the “National Organic Standards Board” (NOSB) reviews and revises the minimum requirements for organic certification as outlined in the “USDA-NOP” – the “National Organic Program”.

Every state’s organic membership organization, including VABF, should be part of the discussion. We should be supported by all advocates for decentralized, local food systems. We have the right to know about our food and the farming that produces our food. We need to control and influence the integrity of our movement.

Big agribusiness controls our country’s current consolidated, synthetic, industrial food supply.  Agribusiness representatives for factory farming and the consolidated, subsidized, synthetic food system appear to have positioned themselves to dominate and co-opt these NOSB discussions (as they have co-opted the concept of “sustainable”).

The consequence is consumer confusion, loss of trust, loss of markets, industrial farms replacing family farms, less control of our food supply, a deteriorating environment and the quality of foods labeled “organic”.

We must protect “organic” as a term and a principle –even as we strive to farm “beyond organic” as currently defined.

Be informed!

VABF was not at the NOSB meeting. Follow the links below to get the perspectives of two organizations that were at the NOSB table.

Cornucopia Institute

National Organic Coalition 

  • Contact your local Farm Bureau, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and USDA leaders. Offer consumer as well as farmer and gardener perspectives; support consumers’ right to know about their food.
  • Encourage more stringent USDA organic standards, not ongoing erosion of organic in principle and in practice. Your statements should be informed as well as opinionated. Cite your sources of info and clarify that you are concerned and engaged!
  • Encourage better representation of organizations that represent the vast majority of organic farmers.

Thank you,

Sue Ellen Johnson
Executive Director
Virginia Association for Biological Farming

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Thank you all for another great conference!

Thank you for participating in this years Virginia Biological Farming Conference and thank you for your conference feedback– if you haven’t responded to our recent email; click here! Be sure to answer the questions about next year’s conference.

Thank you everyone who has talents or suggestions to offer to next years conference. Help us to have a successful 2016 conference! Email conference

Thank you to Virginia State University for an enduring conference partnership! A special thanks to Chris Mullins, VSU VBFC Coordinator.

Special thanks to our Conference Enthusiasts and our Conference Contributors. Your support is vital!

Thank you to all of our exhibitors and to Lorrie Juftes our trade show coordinator.

Thank you John Ikerd for inspiring us and giving us HOPE!

Thank you to all of our presenters! And everyone who listened and asked thoughtful questions!

Thank you moderators and thank you to our guests; VSU leaders Jewel Hairston and Franklin Jackson and NRCS leaders Jack Bricker, Chad Wentz and Chris Lawrence. Thank you Virginia SARE- PDP.

Thank you to conference committee members!

Thank you to all of our volunteers!

Thank YOU for bringing food to the potluck! Particular thanks to Janet Aardema and her assistant Jennifer Wills, our biologically, locally grown food coordinators. Thank you to all the conference food and beverage suppliers including Lamplighter Coffee, Ellwood Thompson’s, and Lickinghole Creek Brewery as well as Devil Bear, Legend Brewing Co, Grayhaven Winery and Elk Island Winery.

Thank you Sara Schmatz, conference registrar!

Thank you Mary Delicate, master of our conference website!

Thank you everyone who donated or bid at our silent auction; and to auction coordinators Jacqueline Moyer and Mary Knight.

Thank you AVIVA, Jeremiah and Chris and Michael Clark for audio and video services.

Thank you Kevin at CMC for a fast turnaround on the program.

Thank you to the Doubletree Hilton Staff.

Thank you Eleanor Goodrich and Antoinette Goodrich for a lovely, first “Common Ground” video.

Thank you Heather Jeffrey for the kids program, and thank you to all the kids for being kids.

Thank you everyone who donated the funds that paid the full registration for 22 young people and start-up farmers to attend our conference, and 25 to attend at half price!  We’ll be looking for help with the scholarship program for 2016.

Thank you if you put a donation in the boot or the hat!  Thank you Jewel Hairston and Franklin Jackson for your remarks and leadership. Thank you Rick Felker, Mark Schonbeck and William Hale for your presentations and your long years of service.  Thank you to our entire VABF Board– and wish us luck in the year ahead.

Thank you for supporting VSU and VABF! Thank you everyone who encourages someone to join VABF or get involved in Virginia’s Biological Farming Movement.

Info on recorded sessions: We will let you know as soon as the conference sessions and the “Common Ground” videos are available on-line here at

Sue Ellen Johnson
Executive Director
Virginia Association for Biological Farming

FOUND: Off white warm chenille wool scarf (women’s)

FOUND: Too many large serving utensils from the POTLUCK!

Attention “Dena Leibman” you won several items at the silent auction. We are holding them for you. Please be in touch with

2014 VBF Conference photo by Tisha McCuiston (116)

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VABF2015 Reminders

While you’re packing your bags for the Virginia Biological Farming Conference, remember these items…

–Potluck Dish to share at the Organic Foods Festival

–Silent Auction donation (Examples here)

–Seeds to share at the Seed Swap

–Musical instruments to play during the Friday evening jam

We can’t wait to see you in Richmond at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel!

PS – When posting on social media about the conference, please use #VABF2015. Thank you!

musicians at VABF

seed swap

VABF conference 2013 (3)

2014 VBF Conference photo by Tisha McCuiston (95)

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Sustainable agriculture conference time in Richmond Virginia!

Both fresh and seasoned farm-food authors will be speaking at the 16th annual Virginia Biological Farming Conference. Come meet them and ask them questions. Details on their workshops are available on our website.

Sustainable Agriculture authors at VABF2015Profitable, entrepreneurial, small acreage, high-value farming experts from Quebec and Atlanta will be speaking at the conference. Cashawn Myers, urban farm leader from Atlanta (left below), and Jean-Martin Fortier, market gardening expert from Quebec (right), will be sharing their experience and knowledge in multiple workshops during the conference. Numerous Virginia and regional farm experts and leaders will also be featured. See the full schedule of workshops here.

Sustainable Agriculture Experts at VABF2015

Virginia grain grower and VABF President, William Hale, will be addressing plenary sessions Friday and Saturday. Hale’s successful operation was recently the cover story in Country Folks farming magazine.

Don’t miss out on this incredible annual gathering of organic farmers. There’s still time to register online.

Register for VABF2015

More about the conference is available at and by contacting Sue Ellen Johnson, Executive Director of the Virginia Biological Farming Association: 540-422-9804.

2014 VBF Conference photo by Tisha McCuiston (8)

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16th Annual Virginia Biological Farming Conference!

2015 Virginia Biological Farming Conference
JANUARY 29-31 2015
Richmond, Virginia

at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel
(same hotel as last year)

Virginia Biological Farming Conference Richmond Virginia

Join VABF & VSU in Richmond for the state’s premier gathering of organic producers and consumers:
the 16th Annual Virginia Biological Farming Conference!

On January 29, 30 and 31, 2015, more than 500 passionate supporters of sustainable, organic food, farming and gardening will participate in sessions covering such topics as bio-intensive market gardening, livestock guardian dogs, edible landscaping, organic orchards, urban agriculture, multi-species grazing, succession planting and many many more ecological agriculture interests.

3 Pre-conference workshops
25 conference sessions
Youth Program
Trade Show
Our annual organic foods festival potluck
Lunch & Dinner featuring local food
World Premiere of Virginia Soil Health Film Series
Book signings with authors
VABF annual meeting and board election

Volunteer Opportunities are Available

Become an Exhibitor or a Sponsor

custombuttonSee Full Conference Schedule

Thursday:   Pre-conference Intensives
Essential Tools & Techniques for the Small Scale Organic Vegetable Growers with Jean-Martin Fortier: $75
The Nuts, Bolts, and Business of Urban Agriculture: From Theory to Practice
with Cashawn Myer & Tenisio Seanima: $60
Edible Landscaping with Michael Judd and Ira Wallace: $60

Friday – Saturday Speakers & Topics
John Ikerd: Sustaining the Sustainable Ag Movement
Jean-Martin Fortier: A Bio-Intensive Market Garden
Cashawn Myers, Tenisio Seanima, Todd Niemeier: Urban Agriculture
Forrest Pritchard: Multi-Species Grazing
Natasha Bowen; The Color of Food
Michael Phillips: Walk Through The Orchard Year & Home Orchard Basics
Michael Judd: Edible Landscapes with a permaculture twist
Ellen Polishuk: Are you losing money with every carrot bunch you sell?
Margaret McGrath: Plant Disease Management for Organic Systems
Ben Coleman: Livestock Husbandry on Pasture,
Renard Turner: Livestock Guardian Dogs
Pam Dawling: Succession Planting & Asian Greens
Elizabeth Borst: Farmers and EBT—Doubling Returns
Mark Jones: Growing and Marketing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms
Ira Wallace & Cindy Conner: From Seed to Seed: Planning and Planting for a Year-Round Harvest
Richard McDonald (Dr. McBug): Beneficial Insects and Farmscaping
Clif Slade: 43560 Project Update
Karl Hammer: An Integrated Compost/Poultry Enterprise (via Skype)
John Davidson and Clif Slade: Hands-on Irrigation
Laura Strawn, Adrianna Vargo, and Amber Vallotton: FSMA Readiness for Small-Mid Size Farms: A Proactive and Practical Approach in Virginia
Edmond Frost, Dan Gagnon, Mike Sands, Laban Rutto: Virginia Organic Research Update
Experiences with Multi-Farm and Cooperative Marketing
Virginia Markets for Organic: Panel Discussion
Plant Disease Roundtable

2014 VBF Conference photo by Tisha McCuiston (22)


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