Wednesday, March 3, 2010

California Small Conference Day Three

Monday starts at 9 a.m. with a General Session comprising of an address from the USDA explaining the goals of the USDA, but the energy from the Farmers in the audience is what impressed me. If the Farmers are allowed to do what they have in mind in bringing local farm fresh food to their local areas than California will win, win, win, more later . . .

We chose Breaking Ground: Opportunities for New Farmers for our first workshop.

Farmlink a nonprofit, to provide assistance to new farmers was there with invaluable information.

Sergeant Colin Archipley did a presentation on his new farm, Archi's Acres, an organic hydroponic operation, which also trains returning veterans and anyone else interested in hydroponics. Archi's Acres Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training (VSAT) program is a progressive venture in small scale organic farming that targets veterans who may be disabled or who are interested in returning to the work force in the agricultural industry. Another shining example of how agriculture can make our world a better place.

Off to luncheon in the grand ballroom where the Marriott served lunch consisting of all local produce and meat and A.G. Kawamura, Secretary of California Department of Food and Agriculture he gave an inspiring speech to all and especially Women Farmers!!

Next workshop, The Next Big Thing: New Crops and New Market Opportunities for Southern California Farmers.

UC Cooperative Extension representatives Ben Faber and Mark Gaskell gave a litany of information about current research in what speciality crops can be grown in Southern California. Their emphasis was in finding crops that small to medium producers could grow, and make money, though the comment that most of us are "nonprofit corporations" was an ongoing joke!! I was especially interested in the blueberry research since my blueberries are in an experimental stage themselves and I would very much like to add this to the farm along with raspberries!

Last stop, Farm to Institution. To be honest I had no intention of doing this workshop, but because of a change in schedule I ended up here and I was so glad!! Riverside Unified School District did a inspiring presentation of their Farm to School program. Proof that it can work!!! Not only did studies prove that the children were eating better and their BMIs were reduced, but that the local farms were growing due to the additional business and thus the economy was growing!! The teachers were even now eating at school!! When the first generation of kids graduated to the high school and they did not have the salad bar installed yet they marched on the Principal's office to have it added!! Now that is proof in the pudding!!

Next was an example of the Buy Fresh, Buy Local success in the Growers Collaborative Program along the California Coast. Community Alliance with Family Farmers organized local family farmers into a distribution network, turned the business over to a "for profit" distribution hub and brought local farm produce to local schools, hospitals and corporate cafeterias. It does not get much better for this. Local produce in local schools and businesses keeping local money in the the local economy!!

We finally were able to breath for a little while and then off to the Banquet Dinner for Petite Local Chicken Breast with a creamy risotto and sauteed local Swiss chard!! Yum!!!! Award presentations included Farmer of the Year to a local Santa Barbara Farmer growing coffee!! The Buy Local Hero Award went to Russ Parsons of the L.A. Times for promoting farmers markets through is articles. Off to sleep, I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow!!

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