Reflection by Cedar Johnson of Goldfinch Gardens, 2018 Farmer Scholarship Recipient through WNC CRAFT. She attended the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) Conference along with 4 other WNC CRAFT Members thanks to a continuing farmer education scholarship through Organic Growers School. Sign up for WNC CRAFT to stay in the loop about next year’s opportunities.
Going to a farm conference is a different experience after over 10 years of growing then it is as an intern or new farmer. There were certain areas where I was hoping to get some deeper knowledge (for example, hoop house management and diseases), but I found that little of the information was new to me. Many of the workshops, such as cover cropping, covered a lot of material that I already knew, but had a few new thoughts that I could glean from the presenter. The farms presenting had some interesting systems set up, but they didn’t really translate to our scale and limitations. Interestingly, even with these limitations, the conference managed to achieve my main goal which was to get my creative juices flowing and renew my energy towards improving our farm.
The three farm presenters that I saw were Pam Dawling (who is also presenting at the 2019 OGS Spring Conference), Ellen Polishuk of Plant to Profit and Shawn Jadrnicek. The ideas I gleaned from them were all in the details. Pam Dawling said to try Spinosad to control Vegetable Weevils in our hoop house and to renew my efforts at good sanitation in the tomatoes when pruning. I realized that if I set this system up this winter, then it will be easier to do this in season. She also suggested trying a grabber tool for lowering our tomatoes much quicker and easier and pre-sprouting fall planted spinach for improved germination. Ellen Polishuk led me to want to try Midwest Labs for a soil test that will measure organic matter and give Boron recommendations. She reminded me to fertilize transplants when setting them out, including a mycorrhizal inoculation. In the future, when and if we can acquire a bit more land, we should try to insert a full rest year into our rotation per her recommendations. Wild Hope Farm seemed to be doing a good job with marketing and social media. I intend on looking at their website and stealing some ideas. They used an interesting reel hose for washing bins which could be useful. It looked like they used a pool screen for cleaning their sink water, which would be faster then the mesh strainers we currently use. Will Hooker’s talk on Permaculture reminded me to include at least a few fun projects on the farm.
Perhaps I will get around to building that frog pond to capture our drainage water that I have been thinking about, or maybe I will invest in a Martin birdhouse to erect on the farm. The CFSA staff and extension agents presented a mixture of useful tidbits and a lot of stuff that wasn’t so useful for our farm. A presentation on packing sheds made me think about cleanliness and how to improve the washability of our floor and screen tables. I also did not realize that summer squash should not be washed with water. I learned of a few organic pesticides which I hadn’t heard about such as Beauvaria bassiana. More importantly, I learned that Richard Boylan (who is also presenting at the 2019 OGS Spring Conference) is someone I can reach out too when I need recommendations for a spray. I am also inspired to organize my sprays, throw out old ones, and better label the ones I keep, so they can be easily applied by anyone. I have definitely not been storing them properly.
Mark Dempsey (who is also presenting at the 2019 OGS Spring Conference) also seemed like a good asset since he is exploring small-scale no till. I am inspired to try some new ideas with landscape fabric and under-sowing. I also got a few ideas for new cover crops to try, such as cow peas and sesame. Though I didn’t go to a single workshop on Lean Farming, many of my inspirations from the conference are to set up the farm for greater efficiency next year. So thanks for funding my trip to this conference. I think it did the trick!
Author: Sera Deva
Sera Deva has a B.S. in Microbiology & Agroecology from The Evergreen State College. She works with OGS as the Farmer Programs Coordinator and Conference Curriculum Coordinator, serves on the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG) Board of Directors, and is the Administrative Director for The Firefly Gathering. When she’s not geeking out over genetics, systems theory or soil hydrology, she spends her time growing and eating food in the South Toe Valley in Burnsville, NC.