Events I’ll be speaking at in 2015, more new varieties

virginia-biological-farming-conference-2015-richmondLast week I listed four events I’m booked for for next year. I’ll fill you in a bit and tell you about some more I hope to be at. My first is

Virginia Biological Farming Conference  January 29-31 2015 in Richmond, Virginia. Early registration (hurry! ends 12/20) is $130 for members, $190 for non-members. So why not become a member if you aren’t already? You’ll get news all year. Conference registration covers your choice of the 25 workshops on Friday and Saturday; access to the trade show, where you can handle the tools you’re considering buying, and ask questions of the vendors; Friday dinner and Saturday lunch;

There are 3 pre-conference workshops (4 to 7 hours each) on Thursday, for $60-$75: Essential Tools & Techniques for the Small Scale Organic Vegetable Growers by Jean-Martin Fortier of The Market Gardener fame, Urban Farming Intensive with Cashawn Myer & Tenisio Seanima, and Edible Landscaping with Michael Judd and Ira Wallace (of Southern Exposure fame).

I’m giving two workshops: Succession Planting for Continuous Vegetable Harvests – How to plan sowing dates for continuous supplies of popular summer crops, such as beans, squash, cucumbers, edamame and sweet corn, as well as year round lettuce. Using these planning strategies can help avoid gluts and shortages (3pm Friday); and  Producing Asian Greens – Detailed information for market and home growers. Many varieties of tasty, nutritious greens grow quickly and bring fast returns. This session covers production of Asian greens outdoors and in the hoophouse. It includes tips on variety selection of over twenty types of Asian greens; timing of plantings; pest and disease management; fertility; weed management and harvesting (10.30 am Saturday). I’ll also be signing and selling books.

Bring a dish for the Friday potluck picnic at lunchtime, seeds for the seed swap, a notebook and two pens, a bag to collect handouts and so on, and if you play music, bring an instrument and some songs for the jam on Friday night.

logoThen the next weekend, I’m at the  Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture Farming for a Future Conference February 4-7, 2015, at State College, PA. There are extra pre-conference sessions on Tuesday 3rd and Wednesday 4th, then the main conference on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I am speaking on Growing Great Garlic (Saturday 3.10 pm) and also on Cold-hardy Winter Vegetables (Friday 8.30 am). I also hope to be doing book-signing and sales.

small-farm-center_bannerFebruary 26-28, 2015 I will be speaking at the West Virginia Small Farms Conference in Charleston, WV. That workshop will either be Cold-hardy Winter Vegetables, or Succession Planting for Continuous Vegetable Harvests.

2012-festival-slideshowThe fourth booking I have is at the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello September 11-12, 2015. Too soon to name the topic.

MENFairLogoAs far as events I hope to be at, there are the Mother Earth News Fairs in Asheville, NC April 11-12, 2015, Seven Springs, PA September 18-20 2015 and Topeka, KS October 24-25 2015


 

Carioca Batavian lettuce. Credit Johnnys Seeds
Carioca Batavian lettuce.
Credit Johnnys Seeds

And meanwhile, this week on the farm we finished our seed ordering and started some shopping for tools and supplies. In 2015 we will repeat our variety trials to try to find a heat-tolerant eggplant variety. We were happy to find another Batavian heat-tolerant lettuce to try: Carioca from Johnny’s. With the addition of a few exceptions, we rely on Batavian lettuce varieties once the weather gets hot, to grow without bolting or getting (very) bitter. the exceptions are Jericho green romaine, De Morges Braun and New Red Fire, a looseleaf red lettuce which nearby grower Gary Scott told me about.

We are also growing some Eden Gem melons alongside our Kansas and Sun Jewel melons (and the individual-serving size Tasty Bites that I mentioned in my last post.

Peacework sweet pepper. Credit fedco Seeds
Peacework sweet pepper.
Credit fedco Seeds

We have high hopes for Peacework sweet pepper from Fedco, a very early (65 day) OP medium-thick-walled pepper “with good flavor and full-bodied sweetness.” We are always on the look-out for fast-ripening bell peppers. Because of the seed-growing business at Twin Oaks, at the end of the season we have tons of ripe peppers, but if you are growing a seed crop, there is no incentive to try to push the planting date early. So our main pepper-focus in the vegetable garden is on earliness and flavor – never forget the importance of flavor!

We are also trying Donkey spinach this year. For years we have been very happy with the reliable performance and productivity of Tyee, but Fedco tell us the producer of Tyee is a Multinational engaged in genetic engineering. If Donkey can replace Tyee we’ll be very happy!

 

Heritage Harvest Festival, Mother Earth News Fair and plenty of watermelons

HHF_20141I’m gearing up for my Cold-hardy Winter Vegetables presentation on Friday September 12 at 9 am at Monticello (near Charlottesville, VA) as one of the Premium Workshops of the Heritage Harvest Festival. After my presentation  I will be signing copies of my book Sustainable Market Farming (see the tab About Pam’s Book) at 10.15 am at the Monticello bookstore. Come by for a chat, even if you’re not buying a book that day. Image-front-cover_coverbookpage

Jeanine Davis, author of  Growing and Marketing Ginseng, Goldenseal, and Other Woodland Medicinals will be signing copies of her book at the same time.

Last time I looked there were still some tickets available for each of the premium workshops except Peter Hatch’s tour of the vegetable garden.

The Heritage Harvest Festival is a lovely event, promoting and celebrating gardening, sustainability, local food, crafts and the preservation of heritage plant varieties. This is the 8th Annual HHF, hosted by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in partnership with Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. There are food booths, music, a beer garden, events for children (last year they were splitting fence-posts and making split rail fences). There is also a seed swap, so bring what you have to offer and take home something different.

This year there is also a Special Thursday event on Edible Landscaping with Rosalind Creasy and our own Ira Wallace. 1-4 pm, $45. On Friday there is also a special Harvest to Hearth event where you can watch a demonstration of cooking on a fire in the Monticello kitchen. 9-11 am, $55. If you are making a special occasion of the weekend there is the Chefs’ Harvest Dinner  6:30 – 9 p.m Friday. It’s $125 and it’s bound to be good. Outside my price range, by quite a bit.

If you can only come for one day, come for the main event on Saturday, with booths where you can watch crafters, buy seeds, plants, tools; taste more varieties of tomatoes than you knew existed; attend various free workshops and tours of the Monticello vegetable garden and woodland walks. Adult general admission for Saturday is $10 until September 11, $15 At the Gate. Child tickets and family tickets are also available. It’s a fun day at a fair price. Lots to see and do, and a beautiful setting.

Ken Bezilla of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange is offering his workshop Fall & Winter Veggies: Zero Degree Gardening for free at noon on Saturday at the Vegetable Gardening Tent. So if all the $10 tickets for my workshops are sold out, or you can’t make it on Friday, go to his workshop on Saturday! Or just to hear a second opinion!


MENFairLogoOn Friday, after my book signing and hers, I’m zooming off with Cindy Conner of Grow a Sustainable Diet fame, up to Pennsylvania for the Mother Earth News Fair at Seven Springs. No, it wasn’t our idea to have both events on the same weekend, but we’ll make it work!

A weekend pass is only $25 (and you’ll need to find accommodation). It’s only $15 if you hurry up and pre-order! Food is available at the Fair, but bring something in case the lines are long. The Fair website has links to hotels and campsites, and there are some rooms at the Seven Springs resort itself. It’s a huge event, with row upon row of vendor and exhibit booths, and 12 workshop locations offering a series of 4 workshops on Friday afternoon, 6 on Saturday and 5 on Sunday. That’s 180 workshops for grown-ups. And there’s a kids’ program too.

The complete list of speakers is here. And the schedule is here. Keep reading. (ignore the funny gap which I can’t seem to get rid of)

I’m presenting Crop Rotations for Vegetables and Cover Crops. I’m doing this one twice, 10 – 11 am on Saturday at the Seed Stage and 11.30 am -12.30 pm on Sunday at the New Society Publishers stage. The blurb says: “We will provide ideas to help you design a sequence of vegetable crops that maximizes the chance to grow good cover crops as well as reduce pest and disease likelihood. We will discuss formal rotations as well as ad hoc systems for shoehorning minor crops into available spaces. The workshop will discuss cover crops suitable at various times of year, particularly winter cover crops between vegetable crops in successive years. We will include examples of undersowing of cover crops in vegetable crops and of no-till options”

I’m presenting Fall Vegetable Production on  Saturday 1-2 pm at the New Society Publishers stage and again on Sunday 4-5 pm at the Storey stage. “Learn how to optimize production by choosing a suitable combination of warm weather crops, cool weather crops and cold-hardy crops. Hear seasonal tips on dealing with hot weather, followed by information on dealing with cold weather, as well as advice on scheduling late summer and fall plantings, thoughts about season extension and an introduction to winter hoophouse growing.”

I’m also doing a book signing on Saturday 2-2.30 pm at the MEN bookstore.

and
Read more: http://www.motherearthnews.com/fair/workshops-and-speakers-pennsylvania.aspx#ixzz3C5xXb3Rz

and for those nearer Kansas than Pennsylvania, I’ll be at

Topeka, Kan. | Kansas Expocentre | Oct. 25-26, 2014


Meanwhile we are getting a sudden spell of hot weather and have started catching up on tilling raised beds for fall crops, and in some cases, oats as a winter cover crop. We have decided to stop harvesting watermelons for eating at 531. I wrote about our decisions about how many watermelon to plant and to harvest in 2012. We’ve had a banner year! We had the biggest melons ever – some were hard to lift! And the flavor has been delicious! And the foliage is still in good shape, not diseased. A big success. We harvested about 40 so far for seed, and will do one big bulk seed harvest round on Wednesday. Next year you can grow our Virginia Select Crimson Sweet watermelon! Buy the seed from Southern Exposure.

Crimson Sweet Virginia Select watermelon. Credit Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
Crimson Sweet Virginia Select watermelon.
Credit Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

 

Updated Crop Rotations Slideshow

Here’s my updated Crop Rotations slideshow for your viewing pleasure, as they say!

<div> <strong> <a href=”https://www.slideshare.net/SustainableMarketFarming/crop-rotations-for-vegetables-and-cover-crops-2014″ title=”Crop rotations for vegetables and cover crops 2014, Pam Dawling” target=”_blank”>Crop rotations for vegetables and cover crops 2014, Pam Dawling</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/SustainableMarketFarming” target=”_blank”>Pam Dawling</a></strong> </div>

I heard from the Asheville Mother Earth News Fair organizers that there were 16,000 people at the Fair!! They had expected 10,000 for a first time at that location. The next MEN Fair is May 31- June 1 at Puyallup, Washington. I’m not going to that one (too far, too busy). I will be going to  Seven Springs, Pennsylvania. That’s September 12-14. Then there is Topeka, Kansas, October 25-26. I hope to be there.

Somehow, I’m also presenting at the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello, September 12-13. Ira Wallace, Cindy Conner and I (and perhaps some other speakers) will all be presenting earlyish at HHF (mostly Friday) then heading north to present at MEN. Next year these events will not be double-booked!

Meanwhile, home on the farm, we are transplanting broccoli, rather late this year, due to cold wet weather. Now it is dry and warm, and our over-large plants are suffering. . . Time to set out the sprinkler irrigation. There is some chance of showers today, but I don’t think it’s going to add up to much water. “At least they won’t be getting drier” as my predecessor taught me to say!

Broccoli seedlings in the cold frame Credit Kathryn Simmons
Broccoli seedlings in the cold frame
Credit Kathryn Simmons

We’ve also transplanted the 120 lettuce for the week, and after the forecast chilly Wednesday night, we have chard, cucumbers and squash to set out, and corn to sow. We will be firmly into the warm weather crops then, and the start of the busy season.

Spring lettuce transplants protected by rowcover. Credit Kathryn Simmons
Spring lettuce transplants protected by rowcover.
Credit Kathryn Simmons

Another of my tasks today is to make maps of where the drip irrigation is to go, so more of the crew can set up the systems. Then I really have to tackle the unholy mix-up of low-flow and medium-flow drip tape that we unwittingly got ourselves into last year.

Chert Hollow Farm on Organic certification, More Snow, Feed the Soil presentation.

Chert Hollow Farm's photos of their farm gate before and after.
Chert Hollow Farm’s photos of their farm gate before and after.

For some time I have been following the blog of Eric and Joanna Reuter of Chert Hollow Farm near Columbia, Missouri. I admire their commitment and creativity. Recently they have posted a three-part series on why they have decided to drop their USDA Organic certification. I found it a very thought-filled and coherent piece of writing and want more people to read it and ponder the points they make.

Dropping organic certification, part I talks about some of their concerns with the USDA Organic system as a whole, and how some of the Organic rules are increasingly at odds with their “beliefs and standards for sustainable and ethical food production.” Their work creating a diverse deeply-sustainable farm with minimal bought-in inputs isn’t easily reconciled with the USDA certification process. “Trying to use our own resources in a creatively sustainable way created an unusually-shaped peg that the organic system’s round holes don’t expect. And thus there’s a lot of subtle pressure on organic farms just to buy stuff rather than be more diversified and creative in their farming approach.” According to their Organic inspectors over the years, they have been star poster-child Organic farmers for five years, and their decision to leave Organic certification will be “a major loss to the organic certification community/process in this part of the country”.

In addition to the differing philosophy and practice between Joanna and Eric’s approach and the USDA, the costs are too high and the benefits too few.

Dropping organic certification, part II  goes into some of their specific issues with the certification. Concerns include costs, including the uncertainty of whether the government will continue the cost-share program; bureaucracy (why don’t chemical farmers have to track and report their inputs and applications??); and the degree of usefulness of USDA certification for direct marketing. As a CSA farm, Eric and Joanna are no longer competing for customers with self-proclaimed “organic” farmers at the market.

Dropping organic certification, part III looks at the benefits of dropping certification, while acknowledging what they learned by being part of the certified system, specifically the value of good record-keeping, good compost-making and careful sourcing of inputs. They credit being certified (and needing to check potential herbicide use on hay and straw they brought in for feed and mulch) with helping them avoid the “killer hay” incidents which are, sadly, all too common around the country. They write about what they are looking forward to, freed from the certification restrictions. They are increasing biological diversity on their farm, getting off mailing lists (!), and communicating more with customers and CSA members, know they’ll save time on certification paperwork. Finally, they discuss some of their regrets about no longer being part of “something bigger, a known collection of farms and consumers that stood for something different from the conventional agriculture model” they oppose. They will no longer have the support of USDA if they suffer from spray drift. They will no longer have an easy label to describe their farming practices to customers. Their hope is that more direct, personal communication with CSA members and the rest of the world will take over in addressing that need.

Meanwhile, here at Twin Oaks, we’ve had More Snow. Only about 3″, following rain. But it has brought a halt to our outdoor gardening pursuits for a while. Just before the snow we managed to get some disking done – the first of the year! We had got some raised beds tilled a few days earlier, so we managed to prepare those bed and sow beets, turnips, radishes and scallions, as well as the last of the snap peas. We haven’t transplanted anything except lettuce, scallions and spinach, because it has been so cold. We got beds ready for kale, cabbage, senposai and collards, before I realized the plants were too small to go outside! All our transplants have been growing slowly. We have postponed planting our tomatoes in the hoophouse because the weather is so unsettled (which is a mild way of saying scarily cold).

On Sunday 3/16, I co-taught Feeding Ourselves Sustainably Year Round with Cindy Conner and Ira Wallace. I blogged about this a couple of weeks ago. I spoke about Feeding the Soil. Here’s my slide show from that event:

<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”https://www.slideshare.net/SustainableMarketFarming/feed-the-soil” title=”Feed the soil. Pam Dawling” target=”_blank”>Feed the soil. Pam Dawling</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/SustainableMarketFarming” target=”_blank”>Pam Dawling</a></strong> </div>

March Events

I have two events in March, where I am making presentations. The first is an online conference (no travel costs!)

 

CSA Expert Exchange:
An Online Conference
Presented in partnership with Small Farm Central
March 6 – Want to Start a CSA?
Beginning Farmers Session
7:00pm-9:30pm EST
March 7 – CSA Expert Exchange Main Event
11:00am-3:30pm EST

Register for one or both days. Sessions will be recorded.
I am speaking on Crop Planning on Friday at 1.40pm.
Then on Sunday March 16, is the rescheduled day at Lynchburg College (postponed from February 15 because of all the snow). I am speaking on Feeding the Soil.
Ira, Cindy and Pam working on our presentations
Ira, Cindy and Pam working on our presentations. Photo Betsy Trice

gws1

gws2

 

Book Review: Ira Wallace on Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast

Book Review:

The Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening

in the Southeast

by Ira Wallace.

January 2014, 200 pages, $19.95. ISBN-13: 978-1-60469-371-3

 wallace_i books-gardeninginthesoutheast

This book will be valuable primarily to new vegetable gardeners and those moving to the Southeast. Of course, experienced gardeners always want to learn from each other, so I encourage anyone growing food in our region, or its neighbors, to take a look. The writing and format are clear and accessible, the index is excellent, so you can quickly find the topic you want. The scale is backyard, not farm. That said, this book could be useful for new farm interns to learn crop basics, timing, and how things are done without fancy equipment. It has the advantage of clearly setting out the basic information without being overwhelming.

The Southeast has been “traditionally underserved” in terms of vegetable gardening books, so having this compilation of tips for our climate, the names of reliable regional varieties, and the encouragement to start in any month and harvest in every month, is valuable beyond price. There are great gardening writers elsewhere in this big country, but nothing beats learning from someone who really knows the territory. Ira learned gardening in her grandmother’s yard in Florida, and has grown food in Virginia for many years. It is hard to translate northern books which talk of ground frozen solid for months in winter, or curing onions out in the September sun. Beginners will have a much happier time starting out with a book written for the actual conditions they will encounter. Gardeners moving from other climate zones will get useful information about working with “the quirks of our climate”; fall gardening, winter gardening, hot weather crops like southern peas and okra. For instance, did you know why gardeners in hot climates don’t sow in hills? They dry out too much (the gardeners as well as the hills!).

This book is intended mostly for those in the lands where the American Holly grows. This is zones 6-9, with bits of 5 and 10: the Southeastern Coastal Plains, Piedmont, Appalachians, Interior Plateau and Ozarks. Winters are temperate, summers are hot and humid, and there is a wide range of seasonal crops. We need to start spring crops early, to get a harvest before temperatures heat up; we need to add organic matter frequently, as it burns up fast in hot humid conditions; we need to know about shading.

The Gardening 101 section includes many helpful tips on soil tests, garden planning and rotations and cover crops. There are lists of crops by season and by ease of growing in our climate. As the introduction says, “Happily, gardening is a year-round activity in our region”, so there is a month-by-month section listing tasks and possibilities.

The Month-by-month section includes a To Do page for each month with panels on Plan, Prepare and Maintain, Sow and Plant, and Fresh Harvest. There is also a Skill Set panel each month covering topics such as making compost, setting up drip irrigation, building shade structures. Each month has a theme: Sowing Seed Indoors for February, Beating the Heat in July. The tone is encouraging and helpful for beginners and climate migrants alike.

My one quibble is that the drawings don’t always seem to exactly fit the text, and I wish there could have been some photos. Luckily, Ira is from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and their website www.southernexposure.com has plenty of photos of crops in action and includes a sun symbol for varieties especially suited to the Southeast.

There is a nice description of working against the shortening days and cooling temperatures of fall to get crops established in the “living refrigerator” outdoors – filling it up to draw from later. Plan for crops to mature in late November, before growth slows right down. There are a lot of critters out there, though, so bring in what you can for storage. Also, plan to have some crops reach half-size, be protected over winter, then rapidly grow in early spring for first harvests of the new growing season.

Part 3 of the book is an A to Z of crops, starting with two Planting and Harvesting Charts, one for the Upper South and one for the Lower South. These cover 38 crops or groups of closely-related crops. Then each crop has around one page of details, divided into paragraphs on Growing, Harvesting, Varieties and Seed Saving.

The Resources section  includes seed and plant suppliers, community organizations, weather and climate resources, companies selling tools and supplies, soil testing services and more good books (blush, including mine). There is a Glossary, to demystify any terms you don’t know – soon you will!

If you live in the Southeast and are new to growing food here, you’ll learn a lot from this book and its clearly arrayed information. If you live around the Southeast, you’ll probably also learn some tips (think of Pennsylvania as the “Upper Southeast”!). If you’re a farmer with new interns about to arrive, get this book for your library. If you’re an experienced vegetable grower in our region, take a look too – I bet you’ll find some new ideas.

Busy events time

Image

I spent the weekend of January 31/February 1 at the Virginia Biological Farming Conference in Richmond. You can read about it on their website. You can also access at least 16 of the presentations made at the conference, and you can find out about the Farm Tours program for 2014 on their website.

Luckily I was not making a presentation this year – luckily, because I was sick, and would have found it difficult. I did three sessions of book signing, and attended some workshops myself. I also met up with a lot of old friends.

I particularly enjoyed the workshop by Jean-Martin Fortier about Les Jardins de la Grelinette in Quebec. Those of you who can read French can check out their website. Jean-Martin has written a book, published in 2012 in French (http://lejardiniermaraicher.com/), and freshly published in English by New Society. It’s called The Market Gardener. Here’s the info from New Society:

“Les Jardins de la Grelinette is a micro-farm located in Eastern Quebec, just north of the American border. Growing on just 1.5 acres, owners Jean-Martin and Maude-Helene feed more than 200 families through their thriving CSA and seasonal market stands and supply their signature mesclun salad mix to dozens of local establishments. The secret of their success is the low-tech, high-yield production methods they’ve developed by focusing on growing better rather than growing bigger, making their operation more lucrative and viable in the process.”

Image

This past weekend, February 6-9, I was at the PASA Conference in State College, PA. This was my first time at this large 2000 person conference. I presented two workshops, Cold-hardy Winter Vegetables (attended by 135 people) and Producing Asian Greens (attended by about 60 people). Both went well, and generated interesting questions. You can view my presentations on SlideShare.net. Also Rhino Technologies recorded the workshops and will have CDs and MP3s for sale soon. Watch the PAS site for info.

I also did some book-signing, and attended some workshops by other farmers and researchers. I was particularly inspired by the PASAbilities Address by Miguel Altieri  on Why is agroecology the solution to hunger and food security?  You can experience it on YouTube here. A very well researched, outspoken and inspiring person, with a global perspective.

Next Saturday (2/15) I will be at Lynchburg College, Virginia teaching an all-day program with Cindy Conner and Ira Wallace. I’m speaking on Feeding the Soil. We would have done more publicity, but the event is sold out! Next week I’ll get my slideshow up on SlideShare.net.

Ira, Cindy and Pam working on their presentations for Lynchburg College 2014
Ira, Cindy and Pam working on their presentations for Lynchburg College 2014

Conference Season!

This weekend (Friday and Saturday) is the Virginia Biofarming Conference, in Richmond, VA. You can see the program here. If you’re going, come by the authors’ table and chat. I’ll be there (James River Foyer) signing books Friday 2.30-3pm and 4.30-5pm. On Saturday, I’ll be there 10-10.30 am. There are lots of great workshops!

cropped-website-header-2013-12The following weekend, Feb 7 & 8, I’ll be speaking (and signing books) at the PASA Conference. On Friday at 1.15-2.35 I will be presenting Cold-hardy Winter Vegetables. Then from 4.10 to 5.30 I will be presenting Producing Asian Greens for Market or at Home.

2014-ART-SLIDEThe following Saturday, Feb 15, I’m presenting a day workshop with Ira Wallace and Cindy Conner at Lynchburg College: Feeding Ourselves Sustainably Year Round! It is already sold out, and there is a waiting list, so no point in me doing much promotion for that! The workshop description is: “Learn about Virginia-specific garden planning, season extension, crop rotation, compost, cover crops and how to interpret seed catalogs”.

Getting the most from conferences, plus updates on blog and events

cropped-website-header-2013-12The program for the Virginia Biofarming Conference just arrived in the mail, and I’m happily highlighting workshops I want to go to.

Meanwhile I’ve been feeling wistful that I’m not going to the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group Conference this year. It’s January 15-18 at Mobile, Alabama. I hope it will be closer to home next year!facebook cover 2014 highres

This winter, for the first time, I’m going to the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture Conference, Farming for the Future February 5-82014-ART-SLIDE

“““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““`As I’m starting to think about attending conferences (as opposed to thinking about presentations I’ve agreed to make), I’m reminding myself of ways of getting the most out of time at a conference. I thought I’d pass some tips along.

Before the conference

  • If you’re short of money, look for scholarships or work-exchange opportunities at the conference you want to go to. But start early, as there will be limited offers.
  • Beforehand, be sure of the dates and times. Sometimes there are pre-conference events, either included with the price of registration, or for an extra fee. If I’m going, I want to take advantage of all the opportunities I can!
  • Book accommodation in good time to get the best deals. Some conferences match up attendees with local members with spare rooms or even floor space, or set up a way for attendees to share hotel rooms with compatible others. There’s Couchsurfing and Airbnb, if you can’t afford a hotel. Cheaper accommodation could mean you can stay an extra day and not miss anything.
  • If you are in a hotel, find out what’s included with the price of the room. Breakfast? Microwave? Mini-fridge? Kettle? You could do some self-catering and save money that way. Find out which meals are included with registration. Or are there “Heavy snacks” receptions – just as filling as a meal!
  • Contact others to car-pool. This could be friends or simply other attendees from your area (Future Friends!)
  • Having taken care of your physical needs, turn your attention to the workshop program. Highlight the ones you really want to go to. Use a different highlighter to mark your second choices (just sometimes you’ll discover your first choice isn’t such a good match as you expected. It’s OK to jump ship!)
  • Some speakers repeat a workshop in two different time-slots. This is a big help when you are finding it hard to choose between two concurrent workshops.
  • Talk to friends who are also going. Perhaps they’ll go to different workshops and you can photocopy their notes or handouts later.

At the conference

  • Make a “pocket list” with your list of activities for each day, including times and room numbers or names. Include your second choices, to make jumping ship speedy if you need to do that. Include any non-workshop events, such as if you make a date to meet someone to talk over a meal. It’s so much quicker to refer to a little note in your pocket than to drag out the whole program and page through it.
  • Keep the conference map handy, perhaps folded in your pocket, or clipped to your notebook.
  • Bring a comfortable-to-use notebook and more than one pen. Maybe a camera to snap screenshots at presentations. Some people bring laptops or tablets, some bring audio-recording devices. All ways to help you remember key points of the presentation. Studies show that the actual writing-down of things helps you remember them – it’s not a matter of reading the notes later (although if your notes are legible, you are more likely to read them later).
  • Get to the room in good time to collect any handouts and flip through to see what’s there. This will save frantic unnecessary scribbling if the chart you want is already in the handout. Sit where you can see and hear. I’ve discovered in recent years that having progressive lenses means I need to sit in the center rather than off to one side.
  • Use the margins of the handout or your notes to flag particular items to follow-up later.
  • Ask questions immediately if you don’t understand clearly. Save your questions that broaden the discussion until the speaker has finished their presentation. They should have allowed time for that, and waiting till the end avoids creating a diversion.
  • Don’t be afraid to approach the speaker after the presentation. We speakers are just human beings. We  want our presentations to be understood. We need to know if we worded something in a confusing way. We will benefit from knowing which aspects of our topic you want to know more about.
  • Be sure to fill out the conference evaluation form, and don’t be constrained by the questions that are asked! Add suggestions for future speakers or future topics. Be as specific as possible with your feedback, so it is useful to the presenters. Include suggestions to improve the visibility, audibility, memorability of each presentation. Include praise and appreciation, not just what you didn’t like!!

After the conference

  • If friends went to different workshops, talk over your respective workshops. This will have the advantage of firming up your memory on the ones you went to, as well as informing you about the ones you missed.
  • Make a collected list of all the items you want to follow up on, from all the workshops, and from the hallway conversations you had. Choose several each week to investigate. Don’t just keep the list in a safe place!
  • Check back at the conference website a week after the event. Sometimes there will be handouts or slideshows posted there.
  • Next winter, as you plan your crops, incorporate some of the best ideas you picked up, at least on a small scale.
  • Write down next year’s conference dates, so you don’t double book yourself!

““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““`

Pam-blog1 jpgMy first blog post has now been posted on the Mother Earth News Organic Gardening Blog. You can read it here. It’s about reading and understanding the small print in seed catalogs. I wrote about it more fully here back in October. I plan to post there about once a month.

““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““`

MENFairLogoOn the upcoming events front, I have now received confirmation from New Society Publishers and Mother Earth News that I will be a speaker at the Asheville, NC, MEN Fair, April 12-13 2014. I’ve offered several workshops – we’ll see which one they choose. I’m also working on a Saturday February 15 workshop with Cindy Conner and Ira Wallace at Lynchburg College, in SW Virginia. It will be from 10am to 3pm with a break for lunch. All three of us Virginia gardening authors will be selling our books there. When we’ve firmed up the topics I’ll let you know.

Upcoming workshops, winter weather, preparing seed orders

First up, note this change of location for my workshop on December 11th. Adrianna Vargo from the Local Food Hub sent this notice of a change of location:

“Due to overwhelming demand (and a few grumpy farmers!) we have moved the location of next week’s workshop with Pam Dawling to accommodate more people.

The new location is:
Albemarle County Office Building
Room A
1600 5th Street Extended
Charlottesville VA 22902
Other details remain the same:

Providing for the Full Eating Season: Succession Planting for Continuous Harvests of Summer Vegetables, and Growing and Storing Cold-hardy Winter Vegetables

Date: Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Time: 3:00 – 6:00 pm
Location: Albemarle County Office Building, Room A (1600 5th Street, Charlottesville, Virginia, 22902)
Cost: $25 (free for Local Food Hub Partner Producers)
Questions: farmservices@localfoodhub.org

“““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““

Secondly, I am planning a workshop with Cindy Connor, author of Grow a Sustainable Diet and Ira Wallace, author of the Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast. It’s at Lynchburg College, in SW Virginia, on Saturday February 15. I’ll give more details once we have them sorted out.

Cindy has written a blog post about Ira Wallace’s new book, Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast. See http://homeplaceearth.wordpress.com/

“““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““`

The weather here has turned wintry. We are bracing for the big ice storm expected Saturday night and Sunday, likely followed by power outages, during which the electric lines-people struggle to restore power over a big area, as this storm looks (on the radar) like it covers a big swath. Here’s the regional radar from Weather Underground this afternoon

Weather Underground regional radar for December 7 2013
Weather Underground regional radar for December 7 2013

In case you couldn’t tell from my slack blogging recently, I’ve been on vacation. My fellow communard, Ezra Freeman, has been tracking the weather here, and reported in his blog on a low of 10F on Saturday 23 November. The previous low had been 18F on November 13, reported to me by Ken Bezilla at Acorn Community and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. Here are some seasonal photos of our gardens taken by Ezra:

East Garden with frost. Credit Ezra Freeman
East Garden with frost. Credit Ezra Freeman
Raised beds November 2013 Credit Ezra freeman
Raised beds November 2013
Credit Ezra Freeman
Ice on the pond. Credit Ezra Freeman
Ice on the pond.
Credit Ezra Freeman
Blackberry leaf with frost. Credit Ezra Freeman
Blackberry leaf with frost.
Credit Ezra Freeman

“““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““`

Meanwhile, our garden work turns towards planning for next year. We have done an inventory of our remaining seeds and decided what to keep and what to throw out. Opinions vary a bit about how many years seeds of different vegetables are good for. The fuller story is that storage conditions make a big difference. You can make your own decisions, weighing up the information supplied, your knowledge of how carefully you stored the seeds, the information on each packet about percentage germination when you bought it, and the economic importance to you of that particular crop. If you always transplant lettuce, as I do, you can risk one of your four varieties in that sowing coming up poorly, and just plant out more of the other three if it fails. Many seed catalogs include information about seed longevity, and so does Nancy Bubel in The Seed Starters Handbook. Frank Tozer in The Organic Gardeners Handbook has a table including minimum, average, and maximum.

A simplified version of how long to keep seeds is as follows:

Year of purchase only: Parsnips, Parsley, Salsify, and the even rarer Sea Kale, Scorzonera

2 years: Corn, Peas and Beans of all kinds, Onions, Chives, Okra, Dandelion, Martynia,

3 years: Carrots, Leeks, Asparagus, Turnips, Rutabagas

4 years: Spinach, Peppers, Chard, Pumpkins, Squash, Watermelons, Basil, Artichokes and Cardoons

5 years: most Brassicas, Beets, Tomatoes, Eggplant, Cucumbers, Muskmelons, Celery, Celeriac, Lettuce, Endive, Chicory

Rather than deteriorating with age, some very fresh seed has a dormancy that needs to be overcome by chilling (lettuce).

““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““`

We are working towards ordering seeds. The catalogs are starting to appear in my mail box. The early bird catches the preferred varieties! The main companies we order from are Fedco, Johnny’s and of course, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. We like SESE for regionally adapted varieties, Fedco for great prices on bulk sizes, and Johnny’s for some varieties we really like that aren’t available from the other two. If you are ordering from Fedco and don’t yet have my book, they are now selling it at a very decent price (cheaper than signed copies direct from me). If you need to economize, but don’t want to buy from the big online company that doesn’t pay its workers much, try Fedco, who are a co-operative.