2016 Keynote Address
The Legacy of Organic Agriculture
Vern's career has spanned the blossoming of organic farming. Over the past 30 years he has seen how organic practices and principles have positively affected economic, environmental and social aspects of our food system. Until about a generation ago, the organic movement was on the fringe, seemingly populated by hippies, health enthusiasts and a few forward-thinking academics. The 1980s and '90s saw the mainstreaming (some would say co-opting) of organic in the marketplace. Since that time organic farming, from the local to the global scale, has shown remarkable economic growth, which continues to this day.
The environmental influence of organic agriculture has also been profound, nurturing awareness and enthusiasm for soil health, grass-fed livestock, cultural pest control, pollinator protection and more. The social tradition of organic farming has proved equally important: farmers exploring new ideas and learning from one another, local certification groups hashing out difficult decisions, and producers espousing a passion for their businesses as well as for stewardship.
To Vern, the legacy of organic farming is an enduring aspiration: to make a living while caring as best we can for the land, our crops and animals, and our communities – while recognizing that we don't know all the answers. To succeed we must respectfully manipulate nature, economies and culture. We must be creative, observant and patient while joyful for the opportunity to produce healthy food. What an excellent legacy to strive to fulfill.
|2016 Keynote Address:
|Vern Grubinger is the vegetable and berry specialist and an extension professor at the University of Vermont. He also serves as coordinator of USDA's Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program (SARE), which awards nearly $4 million in grants annually to farmers, researchers and educators across twelve states. Vern has conducted applied research and outreach in the areas of climate change and agriculture, pest management, produce safety, renewable energy, and soil health. He has written 150 fact sheets, 200 magazine columns, 100 radio commentaries and the books Sustainable Vegetable Production from Start Up to Market, and With an Ear to the Ground: Essays on Sustainable Agriculture. He recently co-authored the book Food, Farms and Community: Exploring Food Systems.
Our 2016 Schedule
A. Permanent Raised Beds ***
Daniel Mays, Frith Farm
Jay and Polly Armour, Four Winds Farm
Patrice Gros, Foundation Farm
Farming with a no-till system of permanent raised beds has various benefits, including improved soil structure, fewer weeds, earlier planting dates, higher yield potential, and less reliance on expensive equipment. Daniel Mays of Frith Farm will talk about his methods for growing 3 acres of vegetables without tillage and with only a walk-behind tractor for mowing and initial bed shaping. Instead of tractors and implements, Daniel has invested in compost and human power; come hear how these investments continue to pay off. Jay Armour will give an overview of his farm operation and how he uses compost on his beds to control weeds and build up soil organic matter. He will describe his "farm appropriate" composting system and his experimentation with tarping. He will also talk about advantages of his approach during unpredictable weather events. Patrice Gros of Foundation Farm produces $85,000 yearly in vegetables and herbs using 24,000 square feet of permanent beds, over 4 seasons. His no-till system is absolutely machine-free and his soil is never impacted except for occasional light raking. His soil organic content has been growing steadily to reach 8.6% as of March 2016. His no-till system also generates a very profitable operation with a net profit margin varying between 65% to 70%. Patrice will describe the 8 building blocks to his no-till system and some of the cultivation methods involved.
B. Potatoes as Part of a Mixed Vegetable Operation ***
Caragh Fitzgerald, University of Maine Cooperative Extension
Andre Cantelmo, Heron Pond Farm
Potatoes can be a profitable part of a mixed vegetable operation. The key is to give them the respect they deserve rather than treating them as a commodity sold in 50 pound bags. Caragh Fitzgerald (University of Maine Cooperative Extension) and Andre Cantelmo (Heron Pond Farm, South Hampton, New Hampshire) will team up to give the details on how to fit them in and make them thrive. The key is to make them look as good as they are and that is based on fertility, crop rotation, pest management, variety selection, post harvest handling, and marketing.
C. Wholesale Marketing: From Restaurants and Natural Food Stores to Colleges and Health Care
Leslie Runser, Native Maine
Tom Luther and Poly Collins, Belfast Co-op
Jeff Space, Pen Bay Health Care
Stuart Leckie, St. Joseph's College
Chip Gray, Harraseeket Inn
This session features a panel of seven representatives from a wide variety of wholesale markets: the Harraseeket Inn, Belfast Co-op, Native Maine, Whole Foods Market, Pen Bay Health Care and St. Joseph's College. Panelists will speak about their markets and how they interact with Maine farmers to source local foods. They will cover topics such as: insurance and food safety requirements/expectations, typical characteristics of farmers they work with (acreage, years of experience anything else you can think of), how farmers can approach their market, opportunities and challenges they face sourcing local foods, and what products they have a hard time sourcing locally.
D. Renovating Fields and Pastures ***
Graham Mallory, Pastures of Plenty
Steve Sinisi, Old Crow Ranch
Rick Kersbergen, University of Maine Cooperative Extension
This session will focus on getting the most out of your pastures. Graham Mallory of Pastures of Plenty will share his experiences managing diversified livestock on pastures all over Waldo County as well as the work he has done to create pastures at his own farm in Jackson. Steve Sinisi established Old Crow Ranch in 2008 and has been working to continuously improve the pastures for his grass based livestock operation since that time. He'll share the techniques he has tried and lessons learned. Rick Kersbergen is an Extension Professor in Sustainable Dairy and Forage Systems for the University of Maine. He works with farms across the state on pasture productivity and will report what he's learned over the years.
E. Tools and Techniques for Effective Staff Management
Stacy Brenner, Broadturn Farm
Ann Mefferd, One Drop Farm and Seedlings by Annie
Few among us go into farming to satisfy a passion for managing employees, yet good staff management is critical in running a successful farm business. Unfortunately, the uniqueness of each farm means that there is no simple one-size-fits-all prescription for success. Ann Mefferd (One Drop Farm and Seedlings by Annie) and Stacy Brenner (Broadturn Farm) will share experiences, tools, tips and systems for effective staff management gleaned over their years of supervising farm staff across a variety of operational scales, production models and labor structures. They will share frameworks for clear communication, establishing roles, providing oversight and giving corrections in a farm workplace. They'll also address the financial implications of effective staff management. Participants are encouraged to bring their own staff management successes, challenges and questions to contribute in the roundtable discussion.
F. Orchard Health ***
Michael Phillips, Lost Nation Orchard
Our primary role as orchardists is to build system health. Understory management that embraces forest edge ecology is critical when it comes to getting a leg up on fruit tree diseases. Equally telling is the nutrient density – and flavor! – of the apples we then harvest for our families and communities. Come learn about fungal allies, root relationships, fertility considerations, and the biodiversity that makes good fruit possible no matter what your level of experience.
G. Farm Stand Success
Christa Bahner, Bahner Farm
Noah Wentworth and Flora Brown, Frinklepod Farm
Jenny Minard and John Roscoe, Wild Tilth Farm
This foundational session on farm stand success will cover farm stand factors like location, design of the stand (structure and interior layout), staffing vs. not staffing, increasing sales, and how to decide what to buy in and what to produce yourself. The speakers represent a diversity of farm stand design including unstaffed stands in rural areas and highly developed stands in dense population regions.
H. Farming Without Extra Labor
David Asmussen, Blue Bell Farm
Jed Beach and Emilia Carbone, 3 Bug Farm
Pheonix Obrien and Megan Gardner, Sandy Meadow Farm
Sandy Meadow Farm, Blue Bell Farm, and 3 Bug Farm will discuss the economics, reasoning behind, tools and way of farming with less labor than is generally assumed is needed. They will discuss how they plan on working with this model and how they will implement this as they grow.
I. On-Farm Plant Breeding – How and Why **
Heron Breen, Fruits of Our Labors
John Navazio, Johnny's Selected Seeds
Even as genetic engineering of seed grabs all the headlines, there is a growing resurgence of classical plant breeding aimed at developing new and improved crop varieties suited specifically for organic production systems, bioregional adaptation and/or direct market appeal. Success in these efforts requires farmers to serve critical roles as advisors, collaborators and independent breeders. This workshop will lay out a road map for on-farm breeding – outlining the key questions to ask, fundamental principles, skills, techniques, collaborative models and resources available for successful breeding projects. Speakers John Navazio (plant breeder at Johnny's Selected Seeds and author of The Organic Seed Grower) and Heron Breen (independent farmer-breeder at Fruits of Our Labor and plant research coordinator at Fedco Seeds) bring decades of experience both as organic growers and as breeders working directly with farmers and their markets to develop improved vegetable varieties. In this session, they'll focus largely on a few real case studies to illustrate the process of effective on-farm breeding projects; with an emphasis on breeding robust, genetically diverse crops that are productive and high quality under challenging environmental conditions in organic systems. Foundational information about plant biology, breeding principles and support resources will be touched upon briefly and provided in detail as background handouts to participants. Come with your questions and ideas for variety improvements, and leave empowered to embark on your own project or inspired to contribute to ongoing organic crop breeding work.
J. Holistic Financial Management
Seth Wilner, UNH Cooperative Extension
Steve Fulton and Marja Kuosmanen, Blue Ox Farm
Seth Wilner, a certified educator in Holistic Management as well as a UNH Cooperative Extension Farm Management Field Specialist, and Steve and Marja Fulton from Blue Ox Farm, one of the largest NH certified organic produce farms in the Upper Valley, use Holistic Management to improve and guide their farms and lives. Holistic Management has a financial planning component that enables users to derive the profits they need from their farms, strategically plan reinvestments, reflect back to plan forward, and cogently plan their enterprise mix based on their goals and financial needs.
K. Planning and Marketing Your CSA
Beth Haines, Fisher Farm
Clayton Carter, Fail Better Farm
Reba Richardson, Hatchet Cove Farm
This session will provide ample guidance for farmers starting a brand new CSA or developing a CSA program in its first or second season. Speakers will address aspects such as production planning, finding shareholders, design choices (having different sized shares, offering multi season shares, boxed vs. debit style), and additional member benefits (discounts at other farm markets, shareholder dinners, etc.).
L. Livestock Genetics and On-farm Breeding
JoAnn and Wayne Myers, Beau Chemin Preservation Farm
Wendy Pieh, Springtide Farm
Genetics can be an overwhelming topic, Aa x Bb and all that! Wayne and Jo Ann from Beau Chemin farm focus on keeping genetics healthy and available for some endangered, rare breeds of primarily sheep, ducks. Wendy Pieh has been breeding cashmere goats and educating others about goat management for many years.
M. Grain Growing for Your Livestock **
Spencer Aitel, Two Loons Farm
Brendan Holmes, Misty Brook Farm
Whether driven by high organic grain prices, limited commercial feed options or an effort to reduce off-farm inputs, many livestock producers are considering ways to grow, harvest and store their own quality grain. Before you get in too deep, come hear from Spencer Aitel of Two Loons Farm and Brendan Holmes of Misty Brook Farm as they share their decades of experience, successes and challenges with grain production. They'll address overall production systems, crop and variety selection, rotations and the equipment that they use for small grains and corn on their farms. Be prepared for real talk about the economics of grain production and how they balance feeding animals with selling grain.
N. Holistic Disease Management ***
Michael Phillips, Lost Nation Orchard
Fruit tree diseases, unchecked by holistic understanding, can wreak havoc in the orchard. We'll take an in-depth look at how the organic grower can keep apple scab, rusts and rots from developing on the fruit to a reasonable minimum. Utilizing pure neem oil, liquid fish, effective microbes, and fermented herbal brews allows us to leave behind the mineral fungicides of 'Old School Organics' for the most part. These are exciting times to be growing healthy fruit!
O. Crop Planning for Shoulder Seasons
Eliot Coleman, Four Season Farm
Patrice Gros, Foundation Farm
Brendan McQuillen, Morning Dew Farm
Join Eliot Coleman, Patrice Gros, and Brendan McQuillen to discuss their planning, methodology, and failures and successes with varied crops planted for the shoulder seasons to close the gaps on either end of the traditional growing season.
P. Weed Management and Cultivation Equipment for Vegetable Farms
Vern Grubinger, University of Vermont Extension
Vern Grubinger, vegetable and berry specialist for University of Vermont Extension, has been observing how farmers use tools to kill weeds since the mid-'90s, when he co-produced the video 'Vegetable Farmers and their Weed Control Machines.' He will review some weed control principles then show slides of a wide range of mechanical weed control tools currently in use on farms, from those that are commonly available commercially to some that are being imported from Europe and a few that were custom made by farmers. Throughout the slide show he will stop and ask farmers in the room to share their experiences with specific tools, pro and con, so come prepared to participate!
Sunday a.m. (short)
Q. Avoiding Insecticide Resistance *
Andrei Alyokhin, University of Maine
Insects can adapt to the most terrible situations, including being sprayed with insecticides. Farmers need to learn how to keep this from happening, especially with our worst pests and our favorite insecticides. Andrei Alyokhin, University of Maine, will explain how this happens, and what you can do to help the community wide effort to avoid it.
R. Certification Record-Keeping
Brittany Hopkins, Wise Acres Farm
Richard Harrison, True North Farms
Developing a simple and easy record keeping system is necessary to maintain organic certification. Learn about the systems farmers have developed to require minimal effort, keep records up to date, and pass muster with MCS.
S. Converting Woodlands to Pasture *
Graham Mallory, Pastures of Plenty
There are lots of ways to go from dense woods to grazeable meadows. Join Graham Mallory to talk about his process of using cattle and hogs to establish, maintain, and improve high quality forage in a silvo-pastoral landscape. Graham will discuss different approaches to logging, grazing, seeding, fencing, watering, and landscaping to achieve your goals. Bring your questions and ideas of how to apply these techniques on your own farm for a lively discussion.
T. Mulching and Weed Management *
Eric Gallandt, UMaine Cooperative Extension
Learn the tips and tricks of creating and keeping a weed-free bed. Eric Gallandt of UMaine cooperative extension will discuss mulching in particular as a weed management practice.
U. Moving Beyond Plastic (almost) with Cover Crops
Eero Ruuttila, Research Farm Manager, Johnny's Selected Seeds
Cover crops provide many benefits, including protecting soils from erosion, building soil organic matter, increasing water infiltration, suppressing soil-borne diseases, as well as reducing annual and perennial weeds. Opportunities exist for realizing significant income from the sale of cover crop seeds, tendrils, flowers and leafy greens. In this session we will look to windows of opportunity for fitting cover crops into vegetable crop rotations, while minimizing the use of plastic mulches. We will highlight the biological characteristics of Northeastern cover crop species with suggested seeding rates, equipment for establishing and maintaining good cover crop stands and suggest when to incorporate cover crops to benefit later cash crops. Eero Ruuttila is Johnny's Selected Seeds current Albion Research Farm Manager. During his 35 year career he has been an organic farm inspector, specialty crop farmer, farm business planning teacher and Cooperative Extension Beginning Farmer educator.
V. Medicinal Herbs
Kathy Langelier, Herbal Revolution
Interested in learning how to propagate medicinal herbs for production and processing into value-added products, as well as the ethical wild harvesting of herbs around the farm? Join Katheryn Langelier, from Herbal Revolution Farm and Apothecary in Union, Maine, as she describes her on-farm medicinal herb production and processing of these crops into value-added medicinal products.
Dr. Susan Beal, DVM, CVH
Did you miss our homeopathy day intensive but still want to learn some of the fundamentals of the practice? Did you enjoy the day thoroughly and want to glean some more information from Dr. Susan Beal? Join us for this short session on homeopathic practices for healthy livestock.
X. Farm Bill 101
During this session, Congresswoman Pingree’s agriculture staffers, Emily Horton and Kelliann Blazek, will give a brief overview of the Farm Bill process and discuss the multiple ways in which you can get involved. After learning the basics about the Farm Bill, the group will have an opportunity to ask questions and share ideas and stories about what’s happening on the ground in Maine. No policy experience is needed, but specific questions and stories related to federal programs are encouraged.
Y. Tractor-less Weed Management ***
Daniel Mays, Frith Farm
Bryan Brown, UMaine
Come learn about human-scale approaches to keeping weeds in check. Bryan Brown will provide an introduction and go over some of his weed management research at the University of Maine, then Daniel Mays will talk about how he manages weeds on Frith Farm through a variety of methods that go beyond plastic mulch and hand hoeing.
Z. Fundamentals of Tomato Growing, Especially in High Tunnels ***
Eric Sideman, MOFGA
Kelsey Herrington and Dominic Pascarelli, Two Farmers Farm
You may think you know how to grow tomatoes perfectly but there is always more to learn. Eric Sideman, Crop Specialist with MOFGA, will give you the details on what you need to do to satisfy the needs of this special crop, from the basics to the special needs. Kelsey Herrington, from Two Farmers Farm, will describe how they grow tomatoes including how they chose the varieties, keep them satisfied with water, warmth, good fresh air, and protect them from the bad guys.
A1. Developing Relational Systems for Farm Success
Polly Shyka and Prentice Grassi, Villageside Farm
In the farming profession, efficiency of systems can make or break an enterprise. Farmers routinely discuss and improve upon their bookkeeping, cover cropping, and weed management systems, among others. This interactive and lively workshop will name and discuss the elements of an often overlooked and yet crucial farm system: The Relational System. We will discuss and learn skills and practices that support sustainable, proactive and healthy relationships that effect farm business success.
B1. Incorporating Seed Crops into Mixed Vegetable Rotation *
Erin Enouen, Long Season Farm and Hudson Valley Seed Library
Sam Zurofsky, Long Season Farm
Zach Pickens, Farm Tournant and Rooftop Ready Seeds
Drawing on their experiences, presenters Erin, Sam and Zach will discuss the challenges and benefits of incorporating seed production into a small scale vegetable rotation. Zach Pickens founded Rooftop Ready Seeds in New York and is now managing his own specialty produce and seed farm in the Hudson Valley, where seed production is an essential part of his unique offerings to NYC chefs. Erin draws on experience from her role at the Hudson Valley Seed Library as the seed farm manger and seed catalog manager as well from co-managing Long Season Farm with Sam, where they integrate producing seed for crops that perform well for their winter vegetable operation. Topics will include: financial, ecological and marketing value of adding seed crops in your rotation; strategies for choosing which crops and type of seed production to focus on; pit-falls to steer clear of.
C1. Employment Law: A Labor of Love
Ben Tettlebaum (facilitator), Legal Services Food Hub of the Conservation Law Foundation
Tom Trenholm, Attorney, Drummond Woodsum
This workshop will dig into and help demystify the nitty-gritty and often complicated details of both federal and state employment law. Do minimum wage requirements apply to your farmworkers? What about overtime? What actually qualifies as agricultural work? Should I offer workers' compensation to my farmworkers? Do I need to? Is my farm apprenticeship or internship program legal? The session will cover these topics and more. Bring your questions and share your experiences. You will leave with a better understanding of how to comply with both federal and state employment law.
D1. Managing Diversified Livestock
Jake Galle and Abby Sadauckas, Apple Creek Farm
Gregg Stiner, Grace Pond Farm
Bob Sullivan, Old Ackley Farm
An important principle of sustainable farming is diversity, and livestock play many key functional roles in an organic farm system. Hear Apple Creek Farm, Grace Pond Farm, and Old Ackley Farm discuss how diverse livestock are integrated on their farms and the different roles that they play. Learn how they manage their farm with multiple species to benefit the health of both the land and animals.
E1. Solar Greenhouses
Jan Goranson or Carl Johanson, Goranson Farm
Steve Tibbetts, Consulting Civil Engineer
David Colson, MOFGA Agricultural Services Director
We are all familiar with plastic hoophouses but sometimes a permanent structure for year-round use may be more appropriate on some farms. Join Steven Tibbetts, engineer and greenhouse designer, for basics of solar building design and Dave Colson and Goranson Farm for their experiences in building and using solar greenhouses.
* Pesticide recertification credits available. The number of credits for each workshop is noted by the number of asterisks beside the title.