Crop producers who attend EcoFarm Conference are in for an abundance of relevant subject matter to help with crop planning, plant and soil nutrition and other production and marketing subjects. A few choices are highlighted here.
Organic Flower Production will open up a whole new realm for growers looking to diversify from vegetables or who enjoy being surrounded by beautiful blooms. Flowers are not only gorgeous and satisfying to produce, but they preserve biological diversity for pollinators and insects who feed on nectar and pollen. They are a great choice for those on the edges of urban areas where flowers are very popular. Presenters Joanna Letz of Bluma Farm and Courtney Mellblom of Farmermaid Flowers will discuss uses of flowers to heal and uplift people as well as help create and preserve diversity in all forms. Everything from choosing varieties to grow, to propagation, pests and diseases, marketing, and post harvest management will be covered.
Photo credit: Farmermaid Flowers
For the more agronomically inclined producers, the workshop called How Plant Nutrition Affects Diseases and Pests is a session not to be missed. Our presenter has more than 40 years experience working with vineyards and orchards on how to balance nutrition so that plants can fend off diseases and are less prone to pests. Over-reliance on nitrogen has led to many of the problems of conventional agriculture, from susceptibility to diseases, to reduced flavor and nutrition of the food. By supplying a variety of minerals in complex organic forms in the right balance, the best crops can be produced which are healthy enough to withstand pest pressure. The presenter, Gregg Young, Certified Professional Agronomist, has been a consulting agronomist for Frog Hollow Farm, Apricot Lane Farms and organic wineries in the Mendocino area and beyond. His inspiration is much of the work done by the soil scientist William Albrecht in the midwest, but applied to western soils and perennial crops.
The approach to the Growing and Marketing Healing Herbs workshop this year is to highlight three inspiring women herbalists in urban areas who grow, harvest, dry, prepare and use medicinal plants as well as teach others to do these activities. Maya Blow from the Soul Flower Farm School of Earth Medicine teaches herbal studies and permaculture design from a small farm in the East Bay Hills that uses biodynamic methods and permaculture design to be self-sustaining with both animals and crops. Kanchan Dawn Hunter and Tatille Jackson work and grow at the Spiral Gardens Community Food Security Project in Berkeley. There they teach herbal subjects and grow healing plants for all.
Apples are a staple and always-popular crop for organic growers and this year a workshop will focus on Old and New Varieties of Apples for Organic Orchards. Larger orchards have access to patented "club" varieties that smaller growers do not, so in order to maintain a marketing advantage, smaller grower must carefully select varieties from the best of the heirlooms, and the most disease-resistant and flavorful of the available newer varieties. The presenters each grow or consult with growers on dozens of these varieties and will offer information that is not available in the descriptions of varieties from nurseries. The favorites from these professional growers will be discussed, as well as some of the limitations so that informed decisions can be made on what to plant or graft for future success. Freddy Menge is involved with the Monterey Bay chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers and has more than fifty apple varieties in his collection. Zea Sonnabend from Fruitilicious Farm is in the sixth year of experimenting with many apple varieties and has gotten to sample quite a few unusual ones. Terence Welch works with homeowners and growers alike to help them select the most productive and delicious varieties for California conditions.
By Zea Sonnabend of Fruitilicious Farm and a member of the EcoFarm Conference Planning Committee.