23rd annual Virginia Biological Farming Conference will be held in person January 6-8, 2023 at The Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center.

The 23rd annual Virginia Biological Farming Conference is Virginia’s premier organic and sustainable agricultural conference! The Conference brings together farmers, gardeners, eaters, educators, industry professionals, and advocates of biological, sustainable, regenerative, and organic agriculture.

The three day Conference includes: 9 Pre-Conference intensive workshops, over 50 concurrent sessions of workshops, presentations, and panel discussions, more than 40 tradeshow exhibitors, locally sourced farm meals and book sales with author signings. The Conference highlights include a Youth Program, a Silent Auction and networking opportunities including regional meetings and fireside chats, morning yoga for farmers and the Taste of Virginia Expo & Market. 



Keynote Speakers

Dr. Elaine Ingham
Soil Food Web School

Dr. Ingham has advanced our knowledge about the soil food web for over 4 decades. Widely recognized as the world’s foremost soil biologist, she’s passionate about empowering ordinary people to bring the soils in their community back to life.

Dr. Elaine’s™ Soil Food Web Approach has been used to successfully restore the ecological functions of soils on six continents. The courses offered by Dr. Elaine’s™ Soil Food Web School have been designed for people with no relevant experience – making them accessible to individuals who wish to retrain and to begin a meaningful and impactful career in an area that will help to secure the survival of humans and other species.

Leah Penniman
Founding Co-Director of Soul Fire Farm

Leah Penniman is a Black Kreyol educator, farmer/peyizan, author, and food justice activist from Soul Fire Farm in Grafton, NY. She co-founded Soul Fire Farm in 2011 with the mission to end racism in the food system and reclaim our ancestral connection to land. As co-Executive Director, Leah is part of a team that facilitates powerful food sovereignty programs – including farmer trainings for Black & Brown people, a subsidized farm food distribution program for people living under food apartheid, and domestic and international organizing toward equity in the food system. Leah holds an MA in Science Education and BA in Environmental Science and International Development from Clark University, and is a Manye (Queen Mother) in Vodun. Leah has been farming since 1996 and teaching since 2002. The work of Leah and Soul Fire Farm has been recognized by the Soros Racial Justice Fellowship, Fulbright Program, Omega Sustainability Leadership Award, Presidential Award for Science Teaching, NYS Health Emerging Innovator Awards, and Andrew Goodman Foundation, among others. Her book, Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide is a love song to the land and her people.

Pre-Conference Workshops

Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms

Mark Jones, Sharondale Mushroom Farm

In this introduction for farmers, gardeners, and homesteaders, learn to grow several different types of mushrooms using low-tech, low-cost methods in your garden or woodlot. We will explore the biology and ecology of fungi in agriculture, using mushrooms for personal and planetary health, and methods for cultivating shiitake, oyster, lion’s mane, reishi, and other mushrooms in wood, straw, and compost.

Beginning Farmer Crash Course

Janet Aardema & Dan Gagnon, Broadfork Farm

This pre-conference workshop will balance depth and breadth to address the major components one faces when in the early stages of farm development while providing targeted resources for participants to dive into greater detail.

Outline of Topics:

  • Fertility Irrigation
  • Season Extension
  • No till soil preparation
  • Transplanting Greenhouse
  • Overview of important crops
  • Direct seeding
  • Weed Control
  • Pest and Disease Management
  • Harvesting
  • Post harvest handling
  • Marketing (Advertising)
  • Market Channels

Introductory Biodynamics: Holistic Basis of a Self-Sufficient Farm

Stewart Lundy

Introductory Biodynamic methods to cultivating fertility with minimal outside inputs for better health, disease and pest resistance, and an improved profit margin. Good ecology is (ultimately) good economics.

Beginning grafting: The whip and tongue

Bill Whipple

Beginning grafting opens the door to horticulture freedom of choice and self reliance. With a cheap grafting knife and a roll of masking tape we can literally make the world a better place. When you master the fundamental skills of the grafting knife, you leave behind the finite and expensive world of commercial nurseries and walk into a room of vast choices and varieties of trees to grow, trial, and share. We will discuss perennial propagation and nursery development. This is a prerequisite for the follow up Grafting and Cloning around workshop.

Advanced grafting and cloning around

Bill Whipple

Grafting and cloning around will familiarize you with a few more versatile grafting techniques which will springboard you into the vast universe of Frankensteining trees in situ. You will be able to transform wild and volunteer early succession trees into food producing powerhouses in a fraction of the time it would take for a planted tree to produce. We will emphasize in detail species compatibility, varieties, aftercare, and pushing the very edges of cloning around.

Heirloom Varieties for Commercial Vegetable Production

Dominic Carpin

This would be an in-depth survey of heirloom leafy greens, root crops, alliums, legumes, cucurbits, nightshades and herbs.

Southeast Seed Growing Workshop

Ira Wallace and Chris Smith, Utopian Seed Project

Ira Wallace and Chris Smith will lead a half day workshop focused on growing seed in the southeast. Growing and saving seed, whether for personal use on farm or for sale, has many advantages (as well as some challenges). This workshop will cover both technical seed saving skills, selective seed saving and regional adaptation strategies, Southeastern seed growing challenges and solutions, market farming and seed growing compatibility, and working with seed companies. Our hope is to leave you with a broad understanding of the seed industry and how you, as a farmer, can play an important and much needed role in regional seed growing. Note: this workshop will include a mix of presentation, video, demonstration and some hands-on learning.

Year Round Hoophouse Vegetables

Pam Dawling

Fill your hoophouses (high tunnels, polytunnels) all year round with productive crops. In this course you’ll learn how to decide which crops to grow—with an emphasis on vegetables—how much to plant and how much to harvest by making maps, schedules and crop rotation plans. We’ll discuss which market crops are best at various times of year—cold-hardy, early warm-weather and high summer crops—and consider less common crops, such as seed crops and flowers, and cover crops for soil improvement. Learn how to maximize the use of space by clever seasonal transitions, succession planting and follow-on cropping. The course will also provide strategies for managing challenges such as extreme temperatures, nitrate accumulation in leafy greens, soil-borne diseases, pests and nematodes, salt buildup, and maintaining soil organic matter.

Create Your Path to Homesteading Success

Leah M. Webb, MPH

Whether trying to grow more of your own food to address concerns over health, environment, or food supply issues, know that building self-sufficiency takes time and patience. Leah will discuss the realities of building a homestead including recommendations on how to set achievable, realistic goals. The path to self-sufficiency is highly rewarding but can lead to burnout or overwhelm if a grower takes on more than they’re able to manage. Leah will pull from her training as a certified health coach to guide participants through a stepwise strategizing session in which they develop a clear roadmap to reaching their homesteading goals. Participants will be given the opportunity dream big and get clear on their vision while considering all the factors that play into improved self-sufficiency. This workshop is the perfect start to an inspiration-packed weekend that may leave you feeling as if you have too many goals and too little time to accomplish them all.

Harvester Sponsor

Sustainer Sponsor

Pollinator Sponsors

Cultivator Sponsors

Seedling Sponsors