Category Archives: events

MOSES 2009 organic farming conference — day 1

warm and wired

warm and wired

Ed Z and I came up a day early so we could sit in a coffee shop all day, drink coffee and stare at our laptops. Actually, thanks to Grounded Specialty Coffee it’s been a very pleasant day. The snow started about an hour ago. We’re warm and wired. This evening we’ll go register, then look for some farmers with which to hang.

In the mean time I’ve been learning about the brand new Organic Agriculture page on eXtension website. It’s loaded with articles on organic production and certification contributed from Extension and university folks from all over the country. There are lot’s of people contributing to this site on an on-going basis. There’s a good FAQ section, and even some videos.

Check it out!



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Upper Midwest Organic Conference

Last year about this time I started this blog. One of the first things I did was try to live-blog from the Upper Midwest Organic Conference. Today, I’m getting ready to head back up to LaCrosse, WI where I plan to attend this year’s conference. I’ll be posting blogs on the spot when I see or hear something interesting, so stay tuned.

Also, in a few weeks I’ll be going to Brazil to stay on a sustainable/organic coffee farm. A friend and I are taking 9 College of ACES students over Spring Break. I’ll post a daily blog from there to keep friends and family up to date on the trip. More on that later. Hoping this will become an annual trip.

Join us!

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Organic horizon makes top 50

and the winner is...

and the winner is...

Thank you to Organicasm for listing this blog in their “50 Must-Read Blogs for the Conscientious Organic Shopper.” Actually looks like a good list.

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Live the dream

farm dreamer (TLC)

The Land Connect and Illinois Extension do a great job planning the Central Illinois Farm Dreams workshops. The 2008 workshops are now scheduled. For more information, or to register, visit the website or contact The Land Connection — 847/570-0701. These are for people serious about organic farming. Very practical information shared by real farmers.

In the Farm Dreams workshops, you will:

  • be introduced to farmers doing various types of farm businesses, and to existing farmer training opportunities
  • do self-assessment exercises to determine your need for, e.g. resources for land, capital, training, and markets
  • identify next steps in pursuing your farming goals
  • leave Farm Dreams with a clear idea about what is possible and what the risks are, so that you are better prepared to decide whether a farming business is the right fit for you at this time

Each interactive workshop is 4 hours long, includes a light supper, and costs $30.

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live-blogging at upper midwest organic conference

I’ll be traveling tomorrow. Going to LaCrosse, WI to attend the MOSES Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference. This is one of the largest organic meetings in the country and always a good time. As I did at the Eco-Farm Conference, I’ll be live-blogging the event. So stay tuned!

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ok. where else do wacky ideas and agriculture collide?

Crop circles, of course.

crop circle

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live-blogging the eco farm conference 3

I am currently live-blogging at the 28th Annual Eco-Farm Conference, January 23-26, 2008, Asilomar State Park and Convention Center, Pacific Grove, CA.

Weather today: Rainy, but beautiful. The people here who live in California are thrilled. It’s raining. After months of drought, water falling from the sky is pure joy. But look at that view!

view from asilomar

Menu Report: The food here at Eco Farm is always fantastic. Breakfast this morning — Biscuits with mushroom cashew gravy, herbed scrambled eggs or tofu, sauteed collards with apples and sesame seeds, turkey sausage, lemon prunes, cold and hot cereal, yogurt, juice. Stand by for lunch!

After breakfast I attended the 8:30 session on the National Organic Program Stakeholders Report. Panel member, Rebecca Spector from the Center for Food Safety presented CFS’ priority issues centered on the inserting more specific wording in the pasture requirement rules for organic livestock and finishing up the organic aquaculture rules. Fish and fish products are appearing on store shelves claiming to be organic when there isn’t even an organic certification for fish. The rapidly growing organic cosmetic industry also needs some attention. Panel member, Jake Lewin from CCOF focused on the need for stronger regulation of certifiers. I find it fascinating the ongoing tension between industrial organic and their constant efforts to water down the rules, and the production/certification industry who are pushing for more stringent rules and enforcement. The latter really values the integrity of the label and are willing to subject themselves to more regulation to insure it. The former seem to value quick, easy profits.

More later. Lunch bell is about to ring…

Menu Report: Lunch — Home made turkey and veggie burgers with all the fixin’s, French onion soup with crostini, spinach salad with lemon shallot dressing, dried fruit and nut platter. All good.

2:00 Plenary Session: A Bright Future for Our Farms and Our Food?

Fred Kirschenmann, Leopold Center and Kirschenmann Family Farms
Growing Into Our Food Future Sustainably: What’s at Stake?

fred kirschenmann at eco farm

Modern agriculture’s fantasmagorical success has been based on cheap resources. We are coming to the end of the cheap resources party. How will it change farming? The chemical era was an attempt to cheat nature. It was seen as a short cut to providing plant nutrition, but in actuality it short circuited the soil biology necessary to produce healthy plants and healthy food.

Fred presented information on energy, water and climate in terms of agricultural sustainability. But what’s the proper response? How are we going to maintain productivity into the future? And not just for 6 billion people, but for at least 9 billion people! We need to shift from a YOYO (you’re on your own) economy to a WAITT (we’re all in this together) economy. Imagining a better future will inspire humans to make changes now to benefit future generations. He cited Joel Salatin as an example of how different and better we can do things. The brightness of ag’s future will depend on which path we decide to take.

Paul Hepperly, Research Director, Rodale Institute
Organic Farming Sequesters Atmospheric Carbon and Nutrients in Soils

paul hepperly at eco farm

Last week Tim LaSalle, the new CEO at Rodale spoke at our Midwest Organic Production and Marketing Conference. He spoke about the research done at Rodale looking at the potential for organic farming to sequester carbon in the form of soil organic matter. It was a good talk, but short on actual numbers.

I always forget how long ago J.I. Rodale started The Organic Gardening Magazine (1942), and the Rodale Institute (1947). Paul recounted the story of J.I. being told by a doctor that he had two years to live. He moved out of New York City and started growing his own food according organic principles. J.I. lived, eventually delivering the eulogy at the funeral of the doctor that gave him the two year death sentence.

Paul presented results of Rodale’s farming system comparison study, now in its 28th year. Manure and cover crops result in a net increase in soil organic matter (SOM). Each pound of organic matter increases the soil’s ability to water by 40 lbs. Increased soil structure results in increased rate at which water can perculate into the soil. The organic systems tested in the Rodale research are lower in energy use than conventional systems. Cover crops are one of the keys.

Tyrone Hayes has shown that minute concentrations of ag chemicals in the environment impairs the sexual development in frogs. Paul presented other research, non-Rodale research supporting benefits of chemical-free farming and safer food.

Menu Report: Dinner — Spinach Butternut Lasagna, assorted breads, roasted fennel and celeriac with fried sage and currants, farmer’s field salad with balsamic dressing, almond anise biscotti bars.

The Organic Wine Tasting social, held every year to raise money for the Ecofarming Conference Scholarship Fund, was a big success. Had to be 20 vintners there, all organic. In Illinois we have one grape grower/vintner trying to produce an organic wine. Of course, Illinois is a different breed of cat when it comes to grapes. We can grow them, but to do so organically is a real challenge because of the humidity and resulting mildew and disease problems.

wine tasting 1
View from the balcony of Merrill Hall

wine tasting 2
Wine tasting, up close and personal

We turned in early, so we didn’t catch the talent show.

asilomar main lodge
Evening at the Asilomar main lodge

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