2012 Ecofarming Conference

You may remember that back in December, Emily got a scholarship to go to a fancy farm conference in New York.  While she was there, she heard of another big one on the left coast, and called me to hurry-up-quick and send in a scholarship application, as they were due that evening. Guess what? I got in!

That’s how I found myself in sunny Northern California last week at the 32nd annual EcoFarm Conference. Between the two of us, we’ve now hit the two big events in hippie farming, and learned a lot in the process. Besides hearing some pretty motivating things said by people who have successfully run CSA-style farms for decades, I was able to attend several technical seminars as well. I feel like I am a bit behind the power curve on the orchard, so I leaned a bit more in that direction, taking a seminar in cover cropping for orchards. The material fit well with the reading I’ve been doing lately on holistic orchard management. Next was a fascinating seminar on integrated pest management, which served to reinforce what we’ve already been seeing: healthy plants living in a diverse ecosystem are naturally more resistant to insects and disease. By spending more time on soil tilth, proper plant nutrition, and good horticultural practices, you can prettymuch eliminate spraying. The final session of the day was my favorite: small scale grain farming. I have been interested in this for some time, but generally keep it a secret, like some sort of farmer perversion. It’s hard to make any money at it (my initial estimates are $.02/sf, compared to the $.70 I get for most vegetables, and upwards of $3.00/sf for winners like pumpkins and broccoli), but what fun it would be to have a few thousand feet of amber waves of grain! So I am going to give it an experimental shot this year, even if I just do it for our own table.

Farmers at an EcoFarming conference aren’t what you might imagine- I was discussing iPads with my friend Brian the day before, and he assumed that farmers didn’t use them. Not so! Nearly all my ecogroovy farmer friends use Mac computers, and many have iPads as well. I snapped this picture for him as evidence.

Now that I’m back from the EcoFarming conference, it’s go time as Ginger says. The farming starts now, with flats and cultivating and pruning. This morning I finished clearing off the space for Phase II blueberry planting, as you can see in this great panorama of our ever-expanding plot.

I also went over to the orchard, to dig another hole. I’m going to add one more tree to the 40 we already have. It seems I made a mistake in my original plan (What? Just one mistake? Miraculous!) and bought two cherries, both Black Tartarians. I just found out, though, that they aren’t self-pollenating, and you have to have two different varieties together if you want to get any fruit. Huh. So, I’m going to add a Ranier cherry next week.

On my way out of the orchard, I made a pleasant discovery. A few months back, I checked my hives and it seemed that two of them were devoid of any life. Today, however, all three were surrounded by scout bees checking out the area during a sunny break in the weather. Yay! I guess some colonies just have really small winter clusters, as Terry suggested.

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