Conference Sessions: January 10th & 11th

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Each conference registration includes Tuesday & Wednesday meals, a Social on Tuesday evening, and feature films on Monday & Tuesday evenings in The Homestead’s theater (cast your vote here!)

Be sure to check out our Pre-Conference Workshops scheduled for January 9th.

mauricesmallMaurice Small: Soil… It’s really simple yet so complex

Applying an abundance of love to our soils leads to an overflowing of gratitude in our communities. Let’s learn how from this internationally known organic grower, soil alchemist and visionary, who has more than 25 years of experience in food systems development, youth entrepreneurship, farmer training, and soil creation. About Maurice Small


Jason Amatucci: Industrial Hemp in VirginiaJason Amatucci

Jason will give you look into the history of hemp in Virginia, up to the present day scenario of navigating the legalities of growing and making products with this valuable sustainable and environmentally beneficial natural resource. As the founder and executive director of the Virginia Industrial Hemp Coalition, Jason has been at the forefront of the Virginia hemp movement and has been directly involved with the writing and the passing of legislation that has legalized the research and commercial production of industrial hemp in the Commonwealth. About Jason & the Virginia Industrial Hemp Coalition


Erica Hellen & Joel Slezak: The Nomad; Pastured Poultry Production ericajoel

Necessity is the mother of invention. When their hatchery shipped us an extra 200 birds but their pasture pens were full, Erica and Joel were forced to try a new method. They now use their “Nomad” poultry system exclusively for both broilers and ducks. In this session Erica & Joel will cover meat bird production from day-old chick to dressed and packaged bird, focusing primarily on field care and equipment needs. About Erica & Joel

Katie Lu Jervias: Be Seen Great! Branding In Person and Online

We want to get our hands dirty. We want to have face-to-face conversations. We want to know where our food comes from. AND we want to survive in today’s digital world. The internet, smartphones and social media are modern day tools for business, life and yes, farming. You get to decide how and when you participate, if you learn to wield these tools effectively you will feel more connected than ever to your community and to the world. And your business, be it a farm, a value-added product or a service offering, will be seen as great!

Katie Lu Jervias: How Farm-to-Table Dinners & Events can put Your Farm on the Map

Sure you’ve seen them in the media, Farm-to-Table Dinners are all the rage, but how do you get started and what does success look like. Katie Lu will give examples of some Farm to Table success stories and the how-to’s of creating one for your community.   About Katie Lu

Mark Jones of Sharondale Farms: Growing Gourmet & Medicinal Mushrooms

Learn how to grow several different types of mushrooms using low-tech, low-cost methods in your garden or woodlot. Discussions will include biology and ecology of fungi, using mushrooms for personal and ecological health, and methods for cultivating shiitake, oyster, lion’s mane, reishi, and other mushrooms in wood, straw, and compost. Read about his pre-conference workshop here.   About Mark

Gwynn Hamilton: Marketing Your Flower Harvest
So you’ve decided to add cut flowers to your repertoire or you’re thinking about your new flower farm. You have the skills to grow beautiful blossoms, but how do you send them out into the world? Gwynn Hamilton of Stonecrop Farm will discuss sales through farmers market, florist sales, subscription bouquets, wedding sales, and other venues to profit from your crops.  About Gwynn 


Meredith Leigh: The Big Food Talk
We are living in an age of critical and complex transitions, socially, scientifically, and philosophically. Join this session to gain perspective on sustainable food activism across the entire supply chain. Meredith – farmer, butcher, chef, writer, and educator – will share dynamic perspective from 15 years of activism, addressing everything from the economic to the environmental to the emotional aspects of food systems work. Farmers, distributors, retailers, chefs, buyers, and conscientious consumers will benefit from this talk, which addresses big picture questions, challenges assumptions, and inspires participants toward updated thought and action.

Meredith Leigh: Developing Adapted Herds for Quality Pastured Meats

Quality grass fed and pasture raised meats require a balance of good forage management and good genetics. This session will address the genetic aspect of raising quality meats, including historical inconsistencies that farmers still face, and encouraging farmers to focus on developing adapted animals, providing as many practical tips as possible for multi-species application. Read about her pre-conference workshop here.   About Meredith 

Pam Dawling: Spring and Summer Hoophouses

Use the summer hoophouse for hot weather crops that struggle outdoors because of temperature or bugs! As well as food crops, consider seeds, cover crops, flowers, and cover crops for soil improvement.As well as heat-loving crops, this presentation discusses cooling the hoophouse; using the opportunity to tackle soil-borne diseases or improve the soil and other uses like seed drying and storage.

Pam Dawling: Cover Crops for Vegetable Growers

Using cover crops to feed and improve the soil, smother weeds, and prevent soil erosion. Selecting cover crops to make use of opportunities year round: early spring, summer, fall and going into winter. Fitting cover crops into the schedule of vegetable production while maintaining a healthy crop rotation.  About Pam Dawling

Ellen Polishuk: Soils 101 for Farmers

No matter your farm enterprise, your success depends on getting consistent healthy crops. Get a handle on the nature of soil, how it works, and what you can do as its steward to move toward sustainable yields.

Ellen Polishuk: Managing Labor – What are you missing?
No matter the size of your operation, you need people involved in your farm business. Whether its help with harvest, markets or bookkeeping, managing relationships will determine how smoothly your season goes. Tips and advice for hiring and managing people power. Read about her pre-conference workshop here.  About Ellen

Barbara Pleasant: Organic Gardening for Eating All YearBarbara Pleasant
Fresh from the garden produce is great, but it’s even better when your garden helps you stock up on organic goodies to eat every day of the year. Award-winning book author and Mother Earth News contributing editor Barbara Pleasant will share her knowledge of gardening for food self-sufficiency, a process that involves growing planned amounts of selected varieties, and putting them by using safe, efficient methods. About Barbara


Amy Ager: Scaling Up Your Farm
From first-hand experience, learn about all the considerations that go into operating an environmentally, financially and socially sustainable business while meeting the needs of your community and your employees. Amy and her husband have grown their farm from raising pastured meats to adding an on farm kitchen, butchery and retail store as well as an event and catering business. Additionally, they have been increasing the regional distribution of their wholesale grass-fed beef and pastured pork business through collaboration with other farmers who raise to their protocol.  About Amy & Hickory Nut Gap Farm

Alex Tuchman: Honeybee Hive as a Superorganism
Exploring the honeybee hive from the perspective of a superorganism can help us to better understand what makes a hive healthy, vital, and capable of warding off external influences such as mites, disease, and pesticide exposure.  A thorough exploration of all of the “organs” in this organism (drones, workers, queen, wax, etc.) will lead towards a greater knowledge of all we can do to help the honeybees regain their strength.

Alex Tuchman: What is Biodynamic Agriculture?

A basic introduction to the principles and methods of biodynamic agriculture from Alex’s perspective and experience. It will cover the indications that were given by Rudolf Steiner in 1924, and expand into the practical and varied methods used by biodynamic practitioners today to create a healthy farm organism. About Alex & Spikenard Farm Honeybee Sanctuary

Ira Wallace: The Seed Garden, Planning for Seed Saving and Lots of Vegetables to Eat

Learn how to plan, plant, grow and harvest from seed to seed in a diverse vegetable garden. Session topics include: best practices for starting indoors; tricks of transplanting and timing, including the use of row covers; the life cycles of popular vegetables, herbs and flowers; how to avoid crossing and insure seed purity; how to “select” the best individuals at every stage (and discard the rest!) including how to mark chosen plants; fitting seed saving into succession sowing strategies for long harvests of multiple crops; seed growing under cover including growing some seed crops in a hoophouse in summer; seed extraction, cleaning and storage on a small scale; taking you right through to seed saving at season’s end. About Ira and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Bryan Fisher: The Importance of Honeybees on the Farm, beginningbryanfisher
This will be a introduction to honeybees. We will cover the importance of pollinators focusing on honeybees. Starting with some ways to attract them to your property, plus things to consider before jumping into beekeeping (cost & time involved). We will also discuss the importance of good management of honeybee colonies, maintaining natural bee habitat, some of the sweet rewards of beekeeping, and what the non-beekeeper can do to help the pollinators.
Bryan Fisher: Sustainable Beekeeping thru Splitting Your Hives & Managing Swarms, advanced
As beekeepers we are faced with loosing bees on a yearly basis. With last years national average for losses over 40% its easy to become a statistic and loose all of your bees. We will discuss the management strategies that I have developed over the past 13 years that allow me to sustain healthy productive colonies of bees. Starting with spring buildup and swarm management to post nectar flow splits and fall/winter preparations we will go cover what it takes to keep your bees healthy and or grow your beekeeping operation. About Bryan



Michael Judd: Uncommonly Easy to Grow Fruits in a Food Forest

Food Forests are grown like a forest, not in the forest. By observing the natural patterns of a healthy forest ecosystem, we see a lot of intimate, successful relationships to learn and adapt for growing a cornucopia of fruits. Food forests are easily set up and started with a select handful of easy to grow fruits. Join permaculture and edible landscape designer Michael Judd in a clear and simplified approach to starting a food forest from scratch and growing uncommon but easy to grow fruits.

Michael Judd: Harvesting Rain

Swales on contour, hugelkultur beds, and raingardens slow, sink and spread the rain. This talk by permaculture and edible landscape designer Michael Judd explores which designs best fit the landscape, how they are created, and how to make them look good.  About Michael

Hari Berzins: Debt-Free Farmsteading  

Join Hari as she teaches how to carefully design a lifestyle in line with your values yet simple enough to sustain happiness. Hari and her family live entirely debt-free, which affords them to time to do the work of homesteading – raising chickens for meat and eggs, growing a large vegetable garden, and putting up food in Southwestern, VA. about Hari & The Tiny House Family


John Wilson: Microbes; a workforce of millions!
Microbial soil amendments and composting tools using a technology developed by Japanese scientist Dr. Teruo Higa. EM·1® is a liquid bacterial product comprising three groups of microbes: Yeast, Photosynthetic Bacteria, and Lactic Acid Bacteria. It works together with local and native beneficial microbes, creating a synergy among microorganisms and larger forms of life including insects and worms, pets and livestock, and people.  About John


Nancy Lee Adamson: Enhancing Farm Diversity to Support Pollinators, Predators, and Parasitoids

Floral diversity on farms supports pollinators and many other insects that benefit our farms, gardens, and watersheds. Join Nancy to learn about some of our smaller farm heroes–the most common types of bees, wasps, flies, beetles, and other wildlife that help ensure healthy harvests. The program will highlight habitat needs (food and shelter) of pollinators, predators, and parasitoids, farming practices that support them, and Farm Bill programs to enhance diversity on farms.  About Nancy & The Xerces Society


lynnblackwoodDr Lynn Blackwood: Freshwater Aqua-Farming in Virginia, Done Responsibly

This session will present the formation and evolution of the Virginia Aqua-Farmers Network, LLC (VAN) and cover the production, processing, and marketing practices and strategies used by this group of aqua-farmers over the last decade. This company has gone through a number of changes as it currently moves toward the development of ready-to-eat recipes using the four freshwater products raised by the farmers: channel catfish, rainbow trout, hybrid striped bass, and freshwater shrimp. VAN’s development represents an attempt to create a sustainable freshwater aquaculture industry in the region and has been supported through the years by a number of state and federal agencies and by several prominent Virginia universities. About Lynn and the Virginia Aqua-Farmers Network.

maureen_leapMaureen McNamara Best: Diversity Model of Production;
                                                      Growing Food Systems and Farmers Together
Diversity is central to any sustainable system whether farming, food or business. This session will explore the diversity model as applied to farm-based models of production, food system development, and organizational program design. Local Environmental Agriculture Project (LEAP), as many small-scale farmers do, started with a farmers market and has diversified our work in line with and in response to the farming community. This session will be based on Best’s research with small scale farmers in Northern Colorado and her experience with LEAP helping develop a more resilient local food system. About Maureen and LEAP

Mark Schonbeck: What’s the News from Organic Soil Health Research? Practical Applications for Your Farm043

Healthy, living soil is the cornerstone of all successful farming, yet it can be challenging for organic producers to optimize soil health and crop nutrition while maintaining satisfactory weed control. Recent research in soil biology, cover crops, nutrient dynamics, ecological weed management, and conservation tillage for organic systems has yielded new practical information that organic farmers can use to meet this challenge. In this session, we will explore and discuss research findings that you can use now optimize soil health, crop nutrition and weed control on your farm.  About Mark Schonbeck
Mark Schonbeck: Working Together to Shape the 2018 Federal Farm Bill: a Policy Priorities Listening Session
The next farm bill is just around the corner, so now is the time to bring farmers’ voices to the policy table. In this Farm Bill listening session, offered by National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) in partnership with VABF, we will provide a succinct update on farm bill preparation – then it will be your turn to share your concerns and priorities for the next Farm Bill. We want to hear from you on organic issues, research and conservation, beginning farmer issues, local and regional food systems, land access, crop insurance, credit, commodity reform, minority farmers and civil rights, marketing programs, nutrition and food access programs, and more! Our goal is to ensure that sustainable and organic producers’ needs and priorities drive NSAC’s Farm Gill Campaign. The listening session is open to farmers, ranchers, and advocates with all levels of policy expertise (including none at all!).

 Dan Kittredge: Principles of Biological Systems & Implications

This session will cover the dynamics by which plants evolved to flourish, and management practices that support the environment for that to occur. Strategies for soil aeration, hydration, mineral balancing, inoculation, and feeding through the liquid carbon pathway will be presented. We will also cover broader implications for soil carbon sequestration, increases in pest and disease resistance, along with nutritive value, flavor, aroma, and shelf life. The lay of the land as it pertains to consumer education, marketing and the food movement will also be discussed. About Dan & the Bionutrient Food Association

Robert Lisenby: Making Your Farm a Business
What financial factors should consider when starting a farm business? Robby offers lessons learned from six years of farming while striving for sustainability and profitability. About Robby Lisenby and Sweet Land Farm


Edmund Frost: Winter Squash Research Report-Back and Tastingedmund_insquash

See, taste and hear about the results of Edmund’s 23-variety winter squash trial that included both market standards and unusual tropical pumpkins.
Common Wealth Seed Growers received a Farmer SARE grant for work with moschata species winter squash in 2016. Edmund will present the data on disease resistance, yield and eating quality, and you can weigh in with your opinion on a dozen or so cooked winter squash samples.
The 2016 work also included three selection projects to improve existing varieties, and a breeding trial with fifth generation Seminole-Waltham cross plants, part of an effort to create a Downy Mildew resistant butternut.

This workshop will cover methods and results from all these projects, providing an introduction to on-farm cucurbit breeding and trialing. Come taste some squash and gain a greater appreciation and understanding of this wonderful plant! About Edmund & Common Wealth Seed Growers

adrivargo-1Adri Vargo: FSMA; Understanding Where Your Farm Fits & Available Training and Resources
This session will provide an overview of FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), with an emphasis on the Produce Safety Rule (PSR) which establishes, for the first time, science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption. Topics will include: FDA’s new farm definitions, determining coverage and exemption for farm operations and commodities, key requirements of the PSR, and staggered compliance dates. Learn how you can tap into available and developing outreach and training resources in your region to receive additional support.

Other Conference Sessions Include:yourneighbors

Maurice Small: Keynote Address — It’s All About The Soil ( An Urban Paradigm Shift)

Jason Ammatucci: Industrial Hemp in Virginia

Reza Rafi & Chris Mullins: Ginger Production

Ryan Blosser: Permaculture and the Market Farm  

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