Re-Inspired for the New Year...
EcoFarm Work-Trade: For anyone wanting to experience the full conference at a discount in exchange for no more than eight hours of work at the conference, I'd highly recommend the work-trade program. My work-trade assignment this year: Food Fairy. Being a "Food Fairy" meant greeting folks in the dining room at three different meals. I found it was a great spot to meet new folks, and catch friends as they came through. I was able to quickly introduce myself to some local farmers whom I've been wanting to meet, and was excited to have made connections I may not have had the opportunity to otherwise.
Inspiring Sessions: This year there was fantastic information offered that was really pertinent to our small homestead. Though I wasn't able to get to every talk I wanted to, I certainly plan on purchasing the conference's audio recordings (available here), so I can catch the things I missed.
Ark of Taste Session: The Ark of Taste (think Noah and the Ark) is a program of Slow Food USA designed to preserve plants and livestock that are in danger of extinction, and promote them within their communities of origin. It also sets out to preserve cultural history as well if a plant or animal's use has a cultural component that is also in danger of being forgotten. "Boarding" them on the Ark (adding them to the list) brings these varieties to the forefront. After taking a look at the list to look for varieties from our Central California/Santa Cruz area, I want to make it a point to grow a Hauer Pippen, and was excited to see that we already had a Blenheim Apricot, Fay Elberta Peach, and have seed to grow the Moon and Stars watermelon this summer.
Encouraging Urban Farming Through Innovative Public Policy: If I needed reassurance that the Urban Farming movement is gaining in strength and popularity, the packed room and the fantastic speakers dedicated to changing public policy in California certainly would have provided it. I was so inspired by all the knowledge and activism in the room as Christina Oatfield from the Sustainable Economies Law Center spoke about legislation that has been passed and is in process in California to encourage and help protect farming in urban areas. Specifically important to us, and new to me, was the passing of The Community Food Producers Bill (AB 1990) in 2014 (effective now in 2015) which allows county departments of environmental health to regulate "community food producers", folks that are growing on parcels not zoned as agricultural. While I'll have to talk to my own local regulatory agency for specifics, in theory, this should legally allow our homestead to grow and produce produce for restaurants, customers, and the cottage food market.
In the Exibitor's Hall, I picked up a book I've heard about but had never before been able to hold in my hands and look at: Deborah Niemann's Raising Goats Naturally: The Complete Guide to Milk, Meat and More. I bought it, took it home, and have already devoured it. It's one of the best guides to goat husbandry that I've had the pleasure of reading, and I finished it feeling affirmed about our decision to go on milk test this year.
I also stopped by the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds booth to grab their "Whole Seed" catalog (the larger, fully comprehensive version of the catalog that is mailed out) and a free packet of seeds. After admitting to the staff member that chatted with me that I sleep with their seed catalog on my nightstand as it's my favorite before-bed reading, I mentioned that the seed that most consumed my thoughts was out of stock when I had placed my order the previous week. It turned out I was speaking to seed expert Richard, who graciously offered to look into why it wasn't available and took my address down to send me a packet. Several weeks later, as promised, two packets of seeds arrived in the mail! Thanks, Richard for the awesome customer service!
I'll spend some time this week sending notes to folks I've exchanged contact information with. I feel electrified and recharged. There is so much more to learn, and yet so much hope for the future. It's great to feel that I'm on the right path. EcoFarm is most certainly one of the resources I'll use annually to ensure we stay heading in the right direction.