Tuesday, November 4, 2008

CFSA Part One: Thursday and Friday

All I can say is "Wow!" I had a great time at the CFSA Conference this weekend in Anderson, SC. Besides the food, the energy of the participants was the best part. There was a buzz among the crowd and every workshop I attended was filled with knowledgeable and inquisitive people and speakers. I learned so much that I am going to split it into two posts. Here is Part One!

On Thursday night I was fortunate enough to attend a delicious dinner (and dessert, of course) that was followed by an address from Wes Jackson, the mastermind and visionary behind the Land Institute in Kansas and a sustainable ag pioneer. Jackson discussed the idea of a "50 Year Farm Bill". He discussed that each 5 year farm bill is a "mile post" towards sustainability and a 50 year plan. Jackson, who has a PhD in genetics from NC State, stressed the importance of sustainable grain production through breeding of perennial grains as a way of restoring and sustaining our soils and water usage. At the Land Institute, students and researchers are working to perrenialize sorghum, wheat, sunflowers and corn. To hear a clip of what Dr. Jackson had to say click on the video from the Chautauqua Institute in NY on Aug. 14. Quite the concept.

On Friday I attended a special Rodale Institute session with Dr. Paul Hepperly, the director or research, and Jeff Moyer, the farm director and inventor of the "roller-crimper". Did you know that in the U.S. we are losing topsoil 10% faster than nature can replace it?! Dr. Hepperly stressed that it is imperative that we reduce the erosion of topsoil immediately- the goal of research at Rodale. This involves cover cropping and rotation which increases soil organic matter and carbon sequestration.

Jeff Moyer discussed his roller-crimper, a machine that was developed to mechanically kill cover crops by rolling them down then crimping them in a no-till system. This allows you to sow your cash crop directly into the green manure. Both Hepperly and Moyer empahsized that you "can't get something from nothing"; when it comes to decreasing tillage we need to increase cover crops.

After the Rodale Institute session, the ag agents were off on a field trip, which was a good thing because I think ag agents tend to get antsy being "cooped up". Our destination was Greenbrier Farms where we were greeted by the owner and a gracious host, Joyce Palmer (shown right with her milking station). It was Joyce and her late husband's dream to have a farm where they could raise all-natural beef that is good for their customers as well as the environment. In addition to the all-natural beef, Greenbrier Farms also produces broilers (left), eggs and goats, as well as having an "alert llama" (below, left), pet turkeys, a community garden and a new greenhouse (below, right). Upon our arrival, Joyce was also celebrating becoming a certified raw milk dairy.

It was quite a fun trip, even if there wasn't many vegetables to see.

Greenbrier Farms is part of the Upstate Forever, a non-profit organization dedicated to smart growth and development of SC, as well as the protection of "special places" in the Upstate. We were fortunate after dinner (and dessert, of course) to hear from the Founder and Executive Director of Upstate Forever, Brad Wyche. Wyche shared with us the role of sustainable agriculture in a strong regional economic development program, as well as Upstate Forever's efforts to preserve farmland and rural communities.

As you can tell it was a busy two days! I can't wait to share with you the exciting information I learned. If you would like to hear more about the programs that I attended, give me a call or write me an email. I also encourage you to visit the website links above.

I will be back with Part Two later in the week.

: Part Two contains information about Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms, tomato season extension, organic blueberry and caneberry (formerly brambles) production.