February 25, 2006 – Conference Day 2

After I go to these conferences, there are so many things I want to try and so many things still to learn. Since noon yesterday I went to a session on starting a grassfed beef herd, from a third year farmer and a company that buys 100% grassfed beef. It’s all genetics, great forage, and management!

Next up was a small ruminant course. Lots of good health information and little tricks to try, especially regarding parasites. When in an active breeding program, the speaker said most farmers find that with 5-6 years, after selecting for qualities important for your farm, problems with animal health and vigor almost disappear. A common phrase in both sessions was “sending them down the road” meaning that if goats are susceptible to worms, cows like to crash fences, those animals are removed.

I went to see a film by Chris Bedford “What Will We Eat” about the search for local food. Linda and I worked with Chris when he lived in Iowa for a few years running the “Care for Iowa” project. A group is trying to get a referendum on the Michigan ballot to require locally produced, healthy food in public schools. It is predicted the ballot will fail, but will bring a discussion and perhaps help some districts implement it.

The keynote was Michael Ableman who presented an impassioned view of the importance of the interconnection between food, farmers, and community. Micheal started a famous urban organic farm in Santa Barbara CA, many years ago. He also challenged the industrial organic paradigm saying he would rather purchase a conventionally produced head of broccoli from his neighbor than from an organic farm 1500 miles away.

The next sesssion was by Paul Otten, publisher of Northland Berry News. He came across as a very knowledgeable, congenial curmudgeon. He impressed upon us the importance of soil and proper mineral balance above all.

“Farmscaping for beneficial insects” shared lots of fascinating work with trap crops, using bats and owls, perimeter cropping and other things. The presenter has an extensive resource on the ATTRA site on farmscaping plants, pests, etc.

The final session was on growing shittake mushrooms. It’s something I’ve recently thought would be fun and a great addition to market. I’m not sure I could time the fruiting as well as I need to, but will probably try some just to see.

After I have some time to go through my notes and papers, I’m come up with a list of things we are going to try this year as a result of the conference.