The Spring Conference is a one-of-a-kind event that offers regionally specific workshops on organic growing and sustainable living. Our mission is to provide down-to-earth, practical advice while remaining affordable and accessible.

2020 Spring Conference Schedule

Join us for more than 150 classes over 3 days…
Expert Instructors – Exhibit Hall – Seed Exchange

Friday: Full-Day Pre-Conference Workshops (Around WNC)
Saturday & Sunday: Conference Weekend (Mars Hill, NC), workshops in 17 themed tracks (below)

Weekend Tracks

 

 

Community Food

Track Leader: Isa Whitaker

The Community Food track explores food justice, food sovereignty, food access, intersectionality, and collaboration models, usually in a local context. Classes in this track include Farming While Black with Leah Penniman; Cooperative Farming Models with Kimberly Hunter; The Root Cause of Hunger with Janice Brewer; Sowing the Seeds of Racial Equity with Natilee McGruder; and Community Gardens for Good with Isa Whitaker.

 

 

 

Cooking

Track Leader: Anne Knoflicek

These classes highlight culinary experts from the Southern Appalachian community with hands-on components and tastings! Bring hard skills back to the kitchen. Each class will have a focus on local, seasonal, and organic ingredients. For 2019, enjoy Wild Mead Making with Marissa Percoco; Cherokee Staple Foods with Tyson Sampson; Food Diaspora with Georie Bryant; and Canning with Kaleb Wallace.

 

 

 

Earth Skills

Track Leader: Erica Gunnison

Earth Skills and Primitive Skills are ever increasing in popularity at our event and at other events in the region. From survival techniques to sharpening knives, relearn the basic tools of living that our ancestors knew by heart. In 2019, enjoy Traditional Foods of the Cherokee with Mary Crowe; Ethnobotany with Lauren Bacchus; Primal Play with Elijah Strongheart; and Woodslore & Wildwoods Wisdom with Doug Elliott.

 

 

 

 

Farming: Beginning

Track Leader: Dallas Robinson

Thinking of starting your own farm? Have you just began your farming journey? This track is designed to showcase beginning farmers who are really 'doing it' in our region. Get insight into navigating the farming landscape of WNC. Presenters will paint a realistic and personal view of successes and failures in Sustainable Agriculture 101 with TBD; Intergenerational Mentorship with Felicia Bell & DJ Baker; Black Farmers: The New Generation with Kendrick Ransome; and Smart Tools, Healthy Body with Nazirahk Amen. Beginning commercial farmers welcome.

 

 

 

 

Farming: Experienced

Track Leader: Joe Evans

Each workshop in this track is an extended 3-hour long farmer roundtable, with one specialist and a farmer panel. Only four workshops during the weekend, to allow for in-depth advanced discussion from many perspectives. Choose from: Blight Resistant Tomato Varieties for the Organic Market with Inga Meadows; Organic No-Till Techniques with Shawn Jardnicek; Designing a Small Farm for Financial Success with Elliot Seldner; and Advanced Enterprise Development & Strategizing with Nicole DelCogliano and Kimberly Hunter. Intermediate and advanced farmers only in this track please.

 

 

 

 

Gardening: Beginning

Track Leader: Macon York Costlow

Gardening in the Southern Appalachian Mountains has very specific elements. Considering our climate, range in elevation, and extreme biodiversity, gardening here looks differently than anywhere else in the country. Whether you're just getting started or are a Master Gardener, our expert speakers in this track will teach you something you don't already know. Enjoy Gardening 101 with Krista Fayette; The Whole Okra with Chris Smith; 10 Easy Vegetables with Clintt DeWitt; and The Seed Garden with Pam Dawling.

 

 

 

 

Gardening: Experienced

Track Leader: Ta'rin'ii Shanai

Each workshop in this track is an extended 3-hour long gardener roundtable, with one specialist and a gardner panel. Only four workshops during the weekend, to allow for in-depth advanced discussion from many perspectives. Choose from: Forest Gardening with Jeanine Davis & Marc Williams; Cultural Growing Techniques with Ta'rin'ii Shanai; Growing Sweet Potatoes from Start to Finish with Pam Dawling; and Growing Great Vegetables in NC with Ira Wallace. Intermediate and advanced gardeners only in this track please.

 

 

 

 

Herbs

Track Leader: Noelle Joy

The herbal track is one of our most popular year after year. Choose from Growing & Selling Herbal Products with Patricia Kyritsi Howell; Adoptogens with Eileen Brantley & Amy Wright; Hemp Production with Michael Lewis; and Grief & Trauma Support with Kelbi Morris.

 

 

 

 

Homesteading

Track Leader: Chris Smith

Whether you're just starting out or want to expand your homesteading practices, the Homesteading Track focuses on practical tools for living a land-based life as a renter or landowner. Self-sufficiency is difficult, but this track really tries to do it all. The exciting options are Homesteading 101 with Angelica Watkins; Food Storage with Ashleigh Hillen; Digital Homesteading with Jason Contreras; and Grain Production with Mark Dempsey.

 

 

 

Livestock

Track Leader: Meredith Leigh

Animals are an integral part of the closed-loop farm and homestead; choosing breeds and employing systems that work for the Southern region is key to sustainable animal farming. Choose from these classes in 2020: Raising Bacon with Rhyne Cureton; Livestock Learning Curves with Meredith Leigh and Panel; All About Minerals with TBD; and Sustainable Meat Rabbits with Sarah Hopton.

 

 

Mushrooms

Track Leader: William Padilla-Brown

The mountain regions are rich in fungi. Learn them, eat them, hunt them, grow them. And this weekend, study them. Begin your fungal journey with Mushrooms 101 with Jon Martin; Medicinal Mushrooms with Cornelia Cho; Fungi in the Soil with Leif Olson; and Fermenting with Fungi with Erica Gunnison.

 

 

 

Permaculture

Track Leader: Indy Srinath

Permaculture is the art and science of integrating humans into the natural world. Under this vast heading are some broad and specific topics. It's hard to choose from these great workshops. Permaculture 101 with Laura Ruby; Perennial Vegetables with Bradley Jones; Holistic Aid with Luke Trotman; and Phyco-Permaculture with William Padilla-Brown.

 

 

 

Poultry

Track Leader: Meagan Coneybeer

Everything poultry, from chickens and ducks to geese and other fowl. Learn about how to raise birds for eggs and meat in your backyard and farm; after learning from these regional experts, you'll run home and get your own! Pick from Husbandry & Management with Meagan Coneybeer; Predator Protection with Tim Burke; and Hentopia: DIY Chickens with Frank Hyman.

 

 

Soils

Track Leader: Mark Dempsey

Soil is the foundation of our lives. Let's learn together how to care for, improve, revere, and understand the living community at our feet. Geek out about SOILS in Soils 101 with Mark Dempsey; No-Till Methods with Cedar Johnson; Fertility Management with Robin Kloot; and Soil Food Web with Troy Hinke.

 

 

 

Sustainable Forestry

Track Leader: Ian Snyder

The Southern Appalachian region is filled with forests. How do we manage our woodlots or even timber on our small holdings? Take these classes! Making Maple Syrup in the South with Wheeler & Michael Waldeck; Forest Planning with Mary Vann Johnson; Forest Farming Enterprises with Jeanine Davis; and Growing Fruit Organically with Andrew Goodheart Brown.

 

 

 

Sustainable Living

Track Leader: Richard Freudenberger

Sustainable living takes many forms. This track focuses primarily on management of resources such as water, energy, and waste. There's always more to learn. Choose from: Tiny Homes with Jeramy Stauffer; Solar for Home & Farm with Matthew Bennett (Saturday)/Chavo Krenek (Sunday); Funding Your Transition to Regenerative Farming Practices with Mari Stuart; and Water Resilience with John Henry Nelson.

 

 

Thinking Big

Track Leader: Sera Deva

This track looks at the themes of the conference from a 30,000 foot view. Participants will be pulled from Appalachia to the greater food, land, culture, and environmental systems we exist within. Choose from: Stewardship Dowsing with Lee Barnes; Growing Out Loud: The New American City with Rashid Nuri; Rural Justice in an Unsettled Land with Charlie Thompson; Climate Advocacy with Steffi Rausch & Asher Wright; and Healing the Matriarch with Zaire Sabb-Hubb.

 

Half Day Workshops

Track Leader: Sera Deva

It’s sometimes hard to get your hands into something in one of the shorter sessions, which is why we’ve designed these extended workshops for those who want to dig a bit deeper into a topic. These are ‘maker’ workshops; take something home with you at the end of the day! There are morning and afternoon sessions on Saturday & Sunday. Choose from: The ABCs of CBD with Franny Tacy; Beekeeping Basics: Natural Products With Honey with Oxx Simeina; Organic Plant Propagation with Thomas Leonard; Kudzu Freeform Basketry with Nancy Basket; Herbal Products 101: Oils & Teas with Noelle Joy; Growing Soil with Vermicompost with Rhonda Sherman; Growing & Eating Tropical Perennials in Appalachia with Chis Smith; and Living with Fermentation: A Comprehensive Exploration with Marissa Percoco.

Check out these photos from our 2019 Spring Conference:

2019 Spring Conference