Thursday, February 12, 2015

PASA Farming Conference 2015

Every year in February, I head to State College PA with a couple other folks from Pittsburgh to take part in Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture's Farming For the Future Conference.  Now that is a mouthful for ya!  It's always great, but this year it was especially great.  The theme was "Nature as Mentor", just my cup of tea.  

Silver Fox aloe, purchased at the conference
I usually buy one or two books I've been wanting while I'm there.  This year I bought four.  Oops. The tool vendors are the really dangerous booths to visit, since they all carry really nice, well-crafted tools.  It's hard not to walk out of there looking like your ready to set up a garden for an entire army. I escaped after paring down my purchases to a pair of nice, inexpensive $16 Bahco bypass pruners, an axe,  and a serrated greens harvesting knife.

Books and seeds
Francis Moore Lappe was the keynote on day one.  She gave a powerful talk about the reality of hunger in a world that is producing plenty of food.  She showed slides from across the globe, stories of hope, of folks taking their destiny into their own hands and finding ways to create secure, local food systems against great odds.   I look forward to learning more about the work of Lappe and her daughter's project,  The Small Planet Institute.

The speaker the second day was a Ray Archuleta, a Conservation Agronomist from NRCS who had made a conversion from conventional agriculture to more sustainable ag 9 years ago.  Pictured below was part of his presentation showing the differences in the ability of non-tilled and tilled soils to hold together and allow water to pass through.  The no-till soil was able to do both, while the tilled soil was able to do neither.  On my small scale, it is easy not to till.  I never have.  But what about farmers that have already invested in the infrastructure, that have tractors and have everything set up with tillage as a way things are done?  Not as easy for them to just drop everything and make the switch.

I attended many great workshops, one on honeybee queens with one of my favorite beekeeper/teachers, Ross Conrad.  Another by Susan Beal on poultry health.  Jean-Martin Fortier discussed his version of intensive market gardening, and the Xerces Society gave an info packed talk on land stewardship for pollinator conservation, among many other topics.

Now, back at home, I am getting back to the business of getting ready to grow, both at work, and here on the homestead.  In our basement, I potted up my first seedlings of the season, the slow growing Alpine Strawberries I have been nursing along.  I await Spring with all the excitement of a kid!

Alpine Strawberries

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