VABF and Pasa Conferences 2024

I’m busy getting ready for presenting three workshops in Roanoke at VABF, and two in Lancaster, PA at Pasa. I hope to meet some of you there.

January 2024 Event

Virginia Association for Biological Farming

and VSU Small Farm Outreach Program

January 19-21 2024

VABF/SFOP Summit conference January 2024
VABF-SFOP Summit

REGISTER HERE!  (at the bottom of their page)

The inaugural Virginia Association for Biological Farming-Small Farm Outreach Program Summit 2024 brings together farmers, gardeners, eaters, educators, industry professionals, and advocates of sustainable, biological, regenerative, and organic agriculture!

The three day Conference includes:  Full and Half Day Pre-Conference intensive workshops, 60+ sessions and workshops, presentations and panel discussions, 40+ tradeshow exhibitors, locally sourced farm meals and book signings. The Conference features a Youth & Teen Program, a Silent Auction and networking opportunities including regional networking meetings, and the Taste of Virginia Expo & Social! 

Learn more: VABF-SFOP Summit pre-conference sessions

Keynote Speakers

Jean-Martin Fortier

Jean-Martin (JM) Fortier is an organic farmer, author, educator and internationally recognized advocate for regenerative, human-scale and profitable agriculture. JM Fortier founded the Market Garden Institute. He is the author of The Market Gardener, and co-author with Catherine Sylvestre  of the Winter Market Gardener. His presentation is Friday 1-5 pm.

We regret to inform you that Niaz Dorry has had to cancel her keynote speech due to understandable personal reasons. Fortunately, she has kindly connected us to another exciting speaker, Ray Jeffers.

Ray Jeffers

Ray is a native of  Person County, NC, where he also operates the family’s century farm purchased by his great-grandfather in 1919. Previously Ray served for 12 years as an elected Person County Commissioner (2008-2020), and was most recently elected in 2022 to the North Carolina House of Representatives where he serves on the Agriculture committee.  Ray continues to serve on several local and state boards promoting agriculture and rural communities. Ray attended Piedmont Community College and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

B. Ray Jeffers joined the RAFI-USA team in June 2021 and near the end of 2022 became Director of the Farmers of Color Network. Ray is no stranger to the job as he currently grows seasonal vegetables for wholesale and direct sale at his B.R. Jeffers Farms in Roxboro, NC, as well as raises heritage breed hogs for direct sale at markets and restaurants.

We’re excited and grateful to have Ray join us for Part 1 keynote address during Saturday evening and a Part 2 keynote address during Sunday lunch.

Pre-Conference Workshops

7 Full and Half-Day Pre-Conference workshops and a farm tour are available on Friday, January 19. In 2024, thanks to grant funding from USDA-NOP-TOPP and a sponsorship by Sand County Foundation, all workshops and the farm tour are being offered free of charge to VABF-SFOP Summit attendees. Workshops may be added on free of charge to your Summit Registration. Spaces are limited.

The Full Day Workshop, Holistic Farming Methods: How Organic, Biodynamic, Permaculture, & Beyond Integrate for a Sustainable Future, includes the Hotel Lunch Buffet free of charge. The Lick Run Farm Tour includes a bagged lunch on the farm. All other pre-conference workshops have the option of purchasing the Hotel Lunch Buffet for $35.

on Friday 1/19, 9 am to noon,I am presenting a half -day workshop: Year-Round hoophouse Vegetables

Hoophouse with winter crops

Fill your hoophouses (high tunnels, polytunnels) all year round with productive crops. In this course you’ll learn how to decide which crops to grow—with an emphasis on vegetables—how much to plant and how much to harvest by making maps, schedules and crop rotation plans. We’ll discuss which market crops are best at various times of year—cold-hardy, early warm-weather and high summer crops—and consider less common crops, such as seed crops and flowers, and cover crops for soil improvement. Learn how to maximize the use of space by clever seasonal transitions, succession planting and follow-on cropping. The course will also provide strategies for managing challenges such as extreme temperatures, nitrate accumulation in leafy greens, soil-borne diseases, pests and nematodes, salt buildup, and maintaining soil organic matter.

Session Schedule

Explore the conference schedule and see when different sessions will be held.

On Saturday 1/20, 4-5.30 pm, I am presenting Storage Vegetables for off-season sales, in the Buck Mountain Room.

Our winter squash storage cage. Photo Twin Oaks Community

Grow crops you can sell during the winter, while allowing yourself some down-time and reprieve from outdoor work. Choose suitable crops, schedules and storage conditions. Understand your weather and basic crop protection. This workshop will provide tables of cold-hardiness and details of four ranges of cold-hardy crops (warm and cool weather crops to harvest and store before very cold weather; crops to keep alive in the ground further into winter, then store; hardy crops to store in the ground and harvest during the winter, and overwinter crops for early spring harvests before the main season). It includes tables of storage conditions needed for different vegetables and suggestions of suitable storage methods, with and without electricity.

On Sunday 1/21, 8.30-10 am, I am presenting Lettuce Year-Round, in the Mill Mountain Room.

Buckley One-cut (Eazileaf) lettuce.
Photo High Mowing Seeds

This presentation includes techniques to extend the lettuce season using rowcover, coldframes and hoophouses to provide lettuce harvests in every month of the year. The workshop will include a look at varieties for spring, summer, fall and winter. We will consider the pros and cons of head lettuce, leaf lettuce, baby lettuce mix and the newer multileaf types. Information will also be provided on scheduling and growing conditions, including how to persuade lettuce to germinate when it’s too hot​​, and the Asian greens used as lettuce in tropical climates.

Taste of Virginia Expo and Market & Social

Included in the Conference Registration and free and open to the public is the Taste of Virginia Expo & Market on Saturday, January 20, 2 – 9 PM in the Crystal Ballroom at Hotel Roanoke. Featuring sampling and sales of Virginia-crafted foods, local libations, handicrafts, and herbals. Complete the evening with music, dancing, and socializing from 8-10 PM.

Youth Program

VABF is offering a Youth Program for children ages 5 – 12, and a special teen program for 12-18 year olds for only $60, including Saturday lunch and dinner and Sunday lunch . Youth Program Registration is offered as an add on to Conference registration or as a stand alone registration.

Lodging

Hotel Roanoke

Rooms in the VABF room block at Hotel Roanoke are $135 + tax  a night. Rooms may be booked online here or by calling (540) 985-5900 (or toll free at 866-594-4722) between the hours of 8am-5:30pm Monday – Friday and say you’re with the VABF Room block. Cut off date is Friday, December 29, 2023.

Book with the VABF-SFOP group rate at The Hotel Roanoke

Check out our Lodging page for more info! 

Silent Auction

Always a fun experience to bid on unique and useful farm and garden products! If you have homemade gifts, books, or items on your farm that you no longer need that may be valuable to someone else, bring them on to the Silent Auction at the Conference! Great way to donate to VABF!

Locally Sourced Meals

VABF is working to procure the majority of our Conference food from local member farms. We look forward to supporting our member farms and enjoying delicious, fresh, local food from the farms below! All Conference Registrations include lunch and dinner on Saturday, lunch on Sunday and morning coffee and tea.

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February 2024 Event

Pasa 2024

Pasa Sustainable Agriculture Conference

Thursday Feb 8 – Saturday February 10

Pasa’s 2024 Sustainable Agriculture Conference

Lancaster, Pennsylvania on February 8–10

On Thursday February 8, 4-5 pm, I am presenting Storage Vegetables for off-season sales

Sweet potatoes crated in the field.
Photo Nina Gentle

Grow crops you can sell during the winter, while allowing yourself some down-time and reprieve from outdoor work. Choose suitable crops, schedules and storage conditions. Understand your weather and basic crop protection. This workshop will provide tables of cold-hardiness and details of four ranges of cold-hardy crops (warm and cool weather crops to harvest and store before very cold weather; crops to keep alive in the ground further into winter, then store; hardy crops to store in the ground and harvest during the winter, and overwinter crops for early spring harvests before the main season). It includes tables of storage conditions needed for different vegetables and suggestions of suitable storage methods, with and without electricity.

On Saturday, February 10, 11.30 am -12.30 pm, I am presenting Crop Rotations for Vegetables and COver Crops

Crop Rotation Pinwheel

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.

In addition to my sessions, you’ll find 70+ other workshops and discussions on a diverse array of farming and food system topics:

Keynote Speaker Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin

Plenary keynote speaker Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin is a farmer and the founder of the Regenerative Agriculture Alliance, a non-profit organization focused on scaling up a systems-level regenerative poultry solution that restores ecological balance, produces nourishing food, and puts money back into the hands of farmers and food chain workers. He is also the co-founder and CEO of Tree-Range® Farms, the for-profit market-facing arm of the system working with family farms to raise chickens in their natural habitat—the jungle!

Dr Heber M Brown

Rev. Dr. Heber M. Brown III, another plenary speaker at this year’s conference, is a pastor, public speaker, community organizer, and social entrepreneur. He is the founder of the Black Church Food Security Network, which advances food security and food sovereignty by co-creating Black food ecosystems anchored by Black congregations in partnership with Black farmers and others.

Ira Wallace

Other featured speakers include Ira Wallace of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Zach Loeks of Ecosystem Solution Institute, Catherine Sylvestre of Ferme des Quatre-Temps, Allyson Levy & Scott Serrano of Hortus Arboretum & Botanical Gardens, Russ Wilson of Wilson Land & Cattle Co. and the FairShare CSA Coalition.

Zach Loeks
Catherine Sylvestre

 Learn more & register

Book Review: The Two-Wheel Tractor Handbook, Zach Loeks

The front cover of The Two-Wheel Tractor by Zach Loeks.

Book Review: The Two-Wheel Tractor Handbook

Small-Scale Equipment and Innovative Techniques for Boosting Productivity, Zach Loeks, New Society Publishers, 2023. 232 pages, $39.99.

Although there is a definite “Tilling-is-bad” mantra in some circles, recent no-till books have spoken in favor of less tilling, rather than never any tilling. Even those in favor of minimizing tilling understand that some circumstances call for tilling, so let’s do it well. This very practical manual will help us deeply understand our two-wheel tractors and get the best out of them while giving them our best. Mindful, good use of machinery is important! This book will be useful to gardeners, homesteaders, landscapers, and small-scale farmers.

One of the author’s goals with this book is “to return the two-wheel tractor to its rightful place as a small-scale solution for land management, especially for diversified and highly profitable stewardship of farms, homesteads, and landscape.” Bigger is not necessarily better. Intensive agriculture can bring more profits than extensive acres of one crop.

Too many of us who use two-wheel tractors (still called rototillers by some, but in actuality two-wheeled tractors are much more versatile than that), look at the manual only when things go wrong. This book gives us the chance to really understand our machines. These are machines that we can maintain ourselves with regular tools. Knowledge is power.

Two-wheel tractors are affordable for new growers, easy to maneuver in small plots of different crops, adaptable with various pieces of equipment for many different cultivation tasks. They have a Power Take Off (PTO) and hitch system similar to four-wheel tractors, and they can connect to multiple implements. Those machines with the ability to rotate the handlebars can be used with a choice of rear-mounted or front-mounted implements.

Two-wheel tractors compact the soil much less than four-wheel tractors, and can use less fuel.

This book explains the various types of two-wheel tractors (BCS, Planet Junior, Ferrari, Grillo and others), so that you can buy the one best suited to the work you need it for. There is help in figuring out how much horse-power you need. The page on safety design will help those planning long hours of operation to get a durable machine. After reading this book, I think you will be able to increase the life of your machine (and maybe your knees).

A raised bed prepared with our BCS 732 and  Berta Rotary Plow, with some lettuce transplants under shadecloth.
Photo Pam Dawling

There are plenty of clear color photos and drawings to help you make sense of it all. As in real-life farming in the US, nearly all of the people in the drawings appear to be white males. It’s hard to be certain when everyone is wisely wearing all the protective gear needed, but I wish the farmers had been more diverse! There is a deep look into the functions of each kind of implement, so you can be informed when choosing between a rotary plow and a furrower, for example.  “Remember, equipment decision-making is where growers can make the biggest mistakes or have the greatest successes. Having the right equipment can revolutionize your homestead or farm, but the wrong equipment choices can begin to dictate how you grow instead of facilitating your chosen production.” One example is your preferred bed-width, and how well that matches the width of your equipment.

The book starts with a history of farming with horses and then their mechanical replacements. Next comes discussion of two-wheeled tractor essential components, types, and the benefits of each. The third chapter talks about specific accessories and adjustments you can make. This is followed by helpful discussion of which equipment is best suited to which scale and type of operation, and also the stage of development of the enterprise. Are you starting up, scaling up, or doing what Zach calls pro-ing up? Keep your later goals in mind and buy equipment now that will fit with what you need next.

There is a good chapter on maintenance and care. Be sure to do regular checks and maintenance, and provide good care and storage, starting with day one. Keep a special toolkit for timely repairs. This chapter includes recommended brands of maintenance supplies, a checklist of maintenance tips, and winter storage preparations.

For me, the main value of the book is in the first 5 chapters and chapter 8 on maintenance and care. The other two chapters will appeal most to permaculturists who like the classification of things and spaces into guilds, and circular diagrams. There is information there for everyone on techniques that could save you time and effort.

I learned valuable understanding in the “Two-Wheel Tractor Essential” chapter. I wasn’t raised on a farm and have approached machinery with a “need-to-know” style. I know which way to set switches but forget which setting of the choke is “in” and which is “out.” Now I understand better. Likewise, I followed the machinery manual in clipping the “operator presence control” and clutch into the U-shaped wire clip when putting the machine in the shed, but I didn’t know why it was important to do that. I passed the instruction on to all the people I trained, but noticed they frequently didn’t do it. The reason is to prevent a stuck clutch, which can happen if the two cone parts of the clutch are left touching while the machine is stored. Disengaging the clutch leaves a space between the two cones, so they don’t stick together.

Zach lists eleven Two-Wheel Tractor Benefits, including that the range of engine sizes gives us the ability to avoid over-large engines for small tasks. Another from the list is that two-wheeled tractors are easy to maneuver in small spaces, between diverse crops, including the ability to make tight turns.

There is a fundamental difference between multi-functional 2-wheel tractors with a PTO, and those without, which are mainly for row-crop cultivation, and can be made with smaller engines and a higher clearance for tall crops. The latter crop includes Planet Junior, Tuffy, and Tilmor Ox. The Tilmor Power Ox now has a wide range of cultivation tools made by Thiessen.

Multi-functional tractors with a PTO are more widely used than the cultivator types. Those such as BCS with reversible handlebars, can be used for front-mounted mowers and rear-mounted earth-moving implements. They have a lower clearance than cultivating tractors and therefore are more stable because of the lower center of gravity.

We use our BCS to incorporate cover crops and compost in preparation for replanting.
Photo Pam Dawling

The section on tractor components includes labeled bird’s-eye-view diagrams of three BCS models. How much horsepower do you need? Various brands and sizes of engine are compared, and the pros and cons of each are discussed. Some pieces of equipment need more horsepower than others, so before buying anything, consider all the implements you might need. There is also a page on choosing and using used engines.

I had not considered the value of being able to lower the handlebars for more compact storage or to lift the tractor when using heavy pieces of equipment. Likewise, we here have all been in the habit of walking directly behind the tiller for better ergonomics, and have not fully explored the benefits of turning the handlebars slightly to one side. BCS handlebars are very easy to adjust!

There is design box explaining which gear to use for best results with which job. There is a bit of a human tendency to think faster is better. It ain’t necessarily so! Likewise, pressing down on the handlebars to get deeper tilling will cause the tractor to “walk” on its tines, removing the center of power from the engine and wheels (where the operator is in control). If you need deeper tilling, set the depth deeper! The mechanics of the tractors and implements are very clearly explained.

Tractors with a differential drive can make tighter turns when you unlock one wheel, meaning only one wheel is then being driven. The differential should be locked for field work (greater stability) and only unlocked for turning or negotiating tight spaces.

I like understanding the tractor better. I now appreciate what a wonderful thing a PTO is, and don’t take it for granted. It enables us to power a range of implements from the engine, rather than simply being ground-driven, or pulled. Having both color photos and hand-drawn diagrams makes it easier to understand the machines.

I don’t plan to need wheel weights, front weights or implement weights, but I know where to turn if I end up needing to know. Likewise, if we need a different space between the wheels, I can find out how to do it. I did learn that our rotary plow would work better on our BCS 732 if we had slightly larger wheels. Choosing the implements is only half of the job, the other half is learning how to get best use under your circumstances.

Using the Berta rotary plow to make paths between our raised beds.
Photo Pam Dawling

Safety is about design, maintenance, operation and protective gear. In this book you can read about the safety features designed into your BCS or other two-wheeled tractor, a list of operating safety tips, and a list of protective clothing and equipment.

The next chapter is about implements and their uses, and instructions for getting them on and off the tractor, with good clear photos. I’m a big fan of the BCS Quick-hitch. We graduated from one BCS with a quick-hitch, tiller, hiller and rotary brush mower, to two BCS machines. We kept one set up for mowing, one for tilling, but each had a quick-hitch and so could be called in as a backup if one machine was down.

Zach addresses the misconceptions around tilling. All working of the soil is a form of tillage, however you do it. No-till and low-till methods reduce tillage. But you cannot successfully (organically) eliminate all earthworking from a farm. If the soil was not tilled previously by someone else, you will need to do primary tillage to open new land. Tarping will not deal with soil compaction. You can move towards the 4-S tillage principles: Seldom, Shallow, Softly (minimal depth?) and Sorted (patterned, meaning leaving a patchwork of untilled areas while tilling the areas you need soon). (There might be some specialized permaculture terminology there that I didn’t quite understand.)

The chapter on equipment decision-making alone is worth the price of the book. It can save expensive purchasing mistakes. Chose implements matching the scale of your enterprise (bearing in mind planned future expansion). How many acres do you have in actual production? This is a more important number than the total acreage of your farm. Market growers working more than 2-3 acres might need a two-wheeled cultivating tractor as well as a multipurpose BCS-type tractor. They may even need a 4-wheeled tractor.

Consider “investment” as a concept including space, time, energy and money. Growing more extensively will use more space, while saving time by using a bigger tractor. That will involve more fuel use (energy) and more money. Trade-offs. Zach has a chart of three scales of enterprise and the tools needed for each of four tasks for each scale. The discussion of extensive versus intensive agriculture shows that either type can be done on a small acreage (consider an acre of garlic in rows 6” apart (intensive) or 15” apart (extensive)). Intensive agriculture can bring in higher profits from the same space without requiring investment in more equipment. The investment there is of more time. Extensive land management uses more land, but less time, and it can save on money too, as when hay, mulches and green manures are grown on site, rather than bought-in.

Author Zach Loeks

Projects can develop and grow over time, changing the scale and the needs of the operation. Be mindful of your goals, and prepare a “Static Goal” rather than do continuous random expansions. When you reach the static-state goal, everything should be in balance, equilibrium. Zach then leads us through an example towards a static state 3-acre farm. For example, better to buy a 30” tiller at start-up than the initially-adequate 26”.

Here the book dips more towards permaculture terms, diagrams and ideas for a chapter. The information on deciding which implements you need is accessible, and you can either embrace or ignore the guild terminology. The glossary at the end will save you from getting lost in the TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms). Some of the same implements are mentioned more than once, to fit the format. There are many pieces of equipment I did not even know of.

Other aspects of farming to consider (apart from intensive/extensive) are profit per square foot and resiliency. Diversity of crops and crop rotation can provide resiliency, but continuous fancy lettuce grown with bought-in inputs can make a higher money profit.

Chapter 5 looks in detail at several example farms, from a backyard gardener to several market gardens. Interesting narratives, with drawings of soil prep stages using various equipment. And separately, lists of tasks to be undertaken. I started by assuming the numbered tasks correlated with the drawings, but it’s not as precise as that. There is a useful “Design Box” on cultivation for row-based planting, useful to those of us who haven’t tackled that yet. Another is about tree nurseries, a side of farming that doesn’t get many manuals (that I’ve seen).

In chapter 6, there are instructions for farming on terraces, and then the permaculture “Permabeds” system. In this chapter you can also learn how to add wheel extensions.

Chapter 7 starts with ways to clear new land, micro-plow it, and form beds with the formidable BCS power ridger, which goes on the front of the tractor. Using tarps to get rid of weeds is also briefly explained, and shown in a series of photos. Zach recommends making life simple by choosing five variations of row spacing, centered on a constant center row.

Chapter 8 is a mini-manual on maintenance and care, another useful section written in a very accessible way. The tool kit drawings are helpful, as is the advice to keep the tractor tools in a special bag on a special shelf, ready to grab if you need to take it down the field. There’s a good list of maintenance supplies, including recommended brand names. There is information on winter storage, and specific instructions for checking and tightening cables, changing Honda engine oil, understanding oils (making it more likely we’ll use the right kind).

What’s growing in the hoophouse; reading; planning for winter.

Tokyo Bekana in the hoophouse.
Photo Pam Dawling

In the hoophouse we are perhaps half way through our bed preparations. The Tokyo Bekana was the first crop we transplanted from our outdoor nursery bed, and it’s looking very sturdy now.  We’ve also transplanted some Yukina Savoy and the first of the lettuces.

Cherry Belle radishes in the hoophouse, early October.
Photo Pam Dawling.

The crops we direct sowed in early September are growing well, and we are harvesting the radishes and some of the tatsoi and Bulls Blood beet greens (thinning to 6″ apart). The spinach is big enough to start harvesting but we haven’t needed to yet.

Hoophouse tatsoi in early October.
Photo Pam Dawling

The newer sowings (the second radishes and the first brassica baby salad mix (mustards) have emerged and are ready to thin to 1″. Sometimes we use thinned seedlings as a salad garnish, but it takes more time than simply pulling them out, and it takes attention to keep them clean.

This summer we grew more cover crops rather than seed crops, which we have been growing in summer for several years, because we were short of workers. In the photo below you can see some healthy cowpeas I’m going to be pulling up later today, as well as some pulled up and dried buckwheat. We don’t dig our cover crops under, just let them die on the surface for as long as possible, shedding bits of dead leaf, then haul them to the compost pile. With the cowpeas, we hope to leave the nitrogen nodules from the roots, by ripping the plants up roughly!

Iron and Clay cowpeas as cover crop in the hoophouse.
Photo Pam Dawling

These cowpeas have been cut back two or three times over the summer, to keep them manageable. At one point, they were black with sooty mold growing on aphid honeydew. We wondered if it was going to be a bigger problem, but after we cut the plants back, most of the aphids seem to have died. We also got a healthy population of ladybugs.


December beds with row cover.
Photo Wren Vile

I gather readers are planning for winter, as many folks have been visiting my Winter-Kill Temperatures List of hardy crops. I update this list every spring, with the info from the previous winter. It’s useful for planning harvests based on forecast temperatures, and it’s useful for planning which winter crops will grow in your location, either inside or out.

On the same theme, I just discovered the WeatherSpark website which provides “The Typical Weather Anywhere on Earth”. Enter your nearest town or airport and you get clearly explained info with fascinating graphics of how the weather goes over the year in your locality. Note this is not a forecast site, it’s about average weather for each place. Useful to people who’ve recently moved and want to know what to expect this winter, or to new gardeners who haven’t paid so much attention previously. Or to those who want to check their assumptions (I really thought the wind was out of the west more of the time than records say). There are charts of high and low temperature, temperature by the hour each month, cloud cover, daily chance of precipitation (both rainfall and snowfall), hours of daylight, humidity, wind speed and direction and solar energy. A big help in making wise decisions. I know that climate change is going to cause havoc with averages, and we’ll need to learn to become better weather forecasters individually, and to use soil temperature and other metrics to decide when to plant. But this website explains things well.


Tomato seed strained in a sieve.
Photo Pam Dawling

I wrote a more concise description of saving tomato seed for the Mother Earth News Organic Gardening blog. For the full length version, see my two posts here and here.

The October Growing for Market is out. Flower farmer Erin Benzakein writes about getting to grips with the marketing side of running a farm. She encourages farmers to get good photos, step out from behind the camera, and dust off their website. I could use some of this advice! (I’ve been very busy writing a hoophouse book, and have necessarily paid less attention to giving presentations and to rejuvenating this website!

Kai Hoffman-Krull writes about on-farm trials of bio-char. I’m looking forward to reading that. Jesse Frost writes about winter CSAs and profiles some he visited. Chris Bodnar covers Italy’s thriving agricultural co-ops and asks if this could be a model for the next phase of the locally-grown movement. Lastly Zach Loeks offers the first of a two-part series on Transitioning to a permaculture market garden.

The September/October issue of Organic Broadcaster is also out. Articles include attending to soil health to improve production; the top reasons customers buy organic foods (accountability, environment, health); interseeding cover crops in cash crops; an interview with farmers in the MOSES Farmer-to-Farmer Mentoring Program; designing an efficient pack shed; and selecting the right meat processor.

Lastly, the campaign www.keepthesoilinorganic.org has posted a letter a letter recently sent out by farming mentor Eliot Coleman about the travesty of allowing hydroponics to be certified as Organic. Hydroponics is a system of growing plants anchored in holes in plastic tubes, or in blocks of inert material, and feeding them with a liquid solution of things that work to produce mature plants. The arrogance of imagining we know everything a plant needs is astounding! The idea that all the many complex ingredients of soil can be replaced with a synthetic concoction is staggering!

Eliot Coleman’s letter includes these quotes:

Organic farming is best defined by the benefits of growing crops on a biologically active fertile soil.

The importance of fertile soil as the cornerstone of organic farming is under threat. The USDA is allowing soil-less hydroponic vegetables to be sold as certified organic without saying a word about it.

The encouragement of “pseudo-organic” hydroponics is just the latest in a long line of USDA attempts to subvert the non-chemical promise that organic farming has always represented. Without soil, there is no organic farming.

 

Eliot Coleman will be a speaker, along with Fred Kirschenmann, Enid Wonnacott, Jim Riddle, Will Allen, Jeff Moyer, Dave Chapman, Anaise Beddard, Lisa Stokke, Tom Beddard and  Linley Dixon at the Jacksonville Rally of the Keep the Soil in Organic movement. Oct 31, 2017 at 12:45 pm – 2:00pm EDT. Omni Jacksonville Hotel, 245 Water St, Jacksonville, FL 32202, USAThis Rally will be a gathering of organic farmers and eaters from all over the world. The march will begin at the Omni Jacksonville during the lunch break from 12:45 to 2 PM on Tuesday, the first day of the NOSB meeting. There will be a 5 minute march to The Landing from the Omni. Lunch will be available at the Rally. For more information, call Dave Chapman at 802-299-7737.