Conferences Past (CFSA) and Future (VABF)

This photo by Stephen Nix from 2019 shows me giving a presentation on cold-hardy winter vegetable crops.

I’ve just got back from the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association Sustainable Farming Conference in Durham, North Carolina. We were 875 people strong.

This year I gave two presentations:


Crop Rotations for Vegetables and Cover Crops

This workshop offers ideas to design a planting sequence that maximizes utilizing cover crops and reduces pest and disease likelihood. Pam discusses formal rotations and ad hoc systems for shoehorning minor crops into available spaces. She also discusses cover crops suitable at various times of the year, particularly winter cover crops between vegetable crops in successive years. Pam provides examples of undersowing cover crops in vegetable plantings and no-till options.

Session Audience: Beginning farmers and growers wanting to increase soil health with limited space and established farmers looking to add cover crops to their rotations.

Rotation Pinwheel Sus Mark Farm


Spring and Summer Hoophouses

Hoophouses are ideal for growing hot-weather crops that struggle outdoors because of temperature, bugs, or diseases. In addition to growing food crops, spring and summer hoophouses are valuable for germinating seeds and growing plant starts, sowing cover crops to improve soil health, and producing flowers. Pam discusses how to cool hoophouses, tackle soil-borne diseases, and use the structures for other purposes, such as curing crops and drying seeds.

Session Audience: Farmers looking to add hoophouses to their operation or established growers who want to extend and improve hoophouse growing into the spring and summer seasons.

Cucumbers, summer squash and two beds of early tomatoes in our hoophouse in late May.
Photo Nina Gentle

The handouts and the slideshows will shortly be available on the CFSA website. We had packed rooms and lively discussions. I learned new things too! One grower suggested I add Red Ripper southern peas as a possible smother crop (as an alternative to my ideas of sweet potatoes, watermelons or West Indian gherkins) for a hoophouse in summer when you want to keep roots in the ground to feed the soil microbes, but you just don’t need or want to be in there every day.

Another experienced grower of ginger suggested providing high nitrogen during the first half of its growing period (the vegetative half) and high potassium for the second (root growing) half. He has started planting his ginger in a row right next to his hoophouse, on the outside, to catch all the roof runoff water, rather than inside. He found he could not provide ginger inside the hoophouse with enough water without flooding everything else.


My next conference is in January 2024: The Virginia Association for Biological Farming is combining forces with Virginia State University Small Farms Outreach Program.

VABF-SFOP conference January 2024 banner

Plans are underway for the 2024 conference, at the Hotel Roanoke for January 19, 20, and 21. While each VABF conference has been special in its own right, 2024 will be one for the ages.  VABF will be partnering with VSU’s Small Farm Outreach Program to combine conferences for the first time in each organization’s history to bring even more people together around the importance and practice of biological farming in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The inaugural VABF-SFOP Summit brings together farmers, gardeners, eaters, educators, industry professionals, and advocates of sustainable, regenerative, biological, and organic agriculture. The three day summit includes: Pre-Summit intensive workshops, 40+ concurrent sessions, locally sourced farm meals and book sales with author signings and over 40 tradeshow exhibitors. Summit highlights include a youth program, farm tour, a silent auction and networking opportunities including regional meetings and fireside chats, morning yoga for farmers, the Taste of Virginia Expo & Social and SFOP annual awards.

Join us for enlightening and inspiring keynote presentations.

One delves into the incredible journey of organic grower JM Fortier and  how his small-scale farming practices have “not only transformed his local community but also ignited a global movement that’s changing the face of agriculture worldwide.” Be inspired by the incredible journey and learn how you can apply his lessons to your own farming practices.

Jean-Martin Fortier, farmer, author, teacher, entrepreneur,

As an author, JM specializes in organic and biointensive vegetable production. His award-winning book, The  Market Gardener, has inspired hundreds of thousands of readers worldwide to practice ecological human-scale food systems. His new book, The Winter Market Gardener, co-written with Catherine Sylvestre, has just come out.

With over 20 years of experience, JM Fortier has dedicated his career to developing, testing,  and perfecting biointensive growing techniques on microfarms such as Les Jardins de la  Grelinette, the Ferme des Quatre Temps, and the Old Mill.

His teachings have been adapted to different online organic farming courses in over 90 countries. His message is one of empowerment with the intention to educate, encourage, and inspire  people to pursue a career and lifestyle focused on growing food with care, by and for people  who care.

Niaz Dorry

The other keynote address is by Niaz Dorry, Executive Director of National Family Farm Coalition; Coordinating Director of North American Marine Alliance.

Many farmers and food providers don’t recognize their power. Join us for a session to get to know your power: the power in what you do, in the food you provide, in the economies you build, in the stewardship you bring to our collective environment, and in the love you bring to the land, water, and animals in your care. Once we know our power, we must work to build even more power through creative collaborations and market transformations that can lead to policy changes that reflect your collective values and vision for an equitable food system and a peaceful future.

Niaz has been a community organizer for over 30 years. The life changing moment came in 1994 when as a Greenpeace campaigner she switched from organizing in communities fighting for environmental justice to organizing fishing communities. From the start she recognized the similarities between family farmers’ fight for a more just and ecologically responsible land-based food system and that of community-based fishermen fighting to fix the broken sea-based food system.

She has been serving as the coordinating director of the North American Marine Alliance since 2008. One of the first things NAMA did after Niaz took the helm was to join the National Family Farm Coalition as its first non-farming member. The two organizations entered into an innovative shared-leadership model on May 1, 2018, putting Niaz in the new role of leading the work of both organizations and further cementing the relationship between land and sea.

There are seven half-day intensives on Friday January 19. Thanks to funding, theses are completely free to participants!!!

Mine is 9am to noon, Year-Round Hoophouse Vegetables.
In the afternoon, 1-5pm, you can listen to JM Fortier on Market Gardening 2.0.


Click here for the Session Schedule, (over 40 workshop sessions), here for the Session Summaries, and here for the Session Overview

I’ll update my Events Page soon, it’s rather dusty right now!