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Earl’s Organic Attends the 34th annual Eco-Farm Conference

The Eco-Farm conference in Pacific Grove, CA is the oldest and largest yearly ecological agricultural gathering in the West where over 1,500 people meet to create, maintain and promote healthy, safe and just food farming systems. The conference is also a great chance to network and meet with clients and growers to make plans for the coming year.  I had a chance to finally put a face to the name to many of the wonderful people I work with all year.

The 34th annual Eco-Farm was a 3 day whirlwind of seminars with something for everyone.  Topics covered included “Nourishing Your Farm With Biodynamic Preparations”, “Managing Weeds Organically”, “National Organic Update”, “Keeping GMO’s Out of Organic Food” and the “Asian Citrus Psyllid(Citrus Greening)” just to name a few.  Earl’s sponsored Eco-Farm for the 18th year in a row and had members from the sales, purchasing, marketing, sustainability and warehouse departments represented. Each person had a unique experience at the conference.  Here are a few of their stories.

Beautiful Produce display by Earl and Sita, Helge and Mark from "An Organic Conversation Radio Show"

Beautiful Produce display by Earl and Sita, Helge and Mark from “An Organic Conversation Radio Show”

Patrick Stewart, Head of Sales

ECO farm has always been a great “rejuvenator” for me. It’s great to be around so many people that are involved in the industry and movement I have given so much of my life to. Going back to when I first started working for EOP and Earl closed down the business for 2 days and every employee participated the ECO Farm Conference has been a source of energy and excitement. It provides a great boost that benefits throughout the year.

The “Produce Dinosaurs” panel was especially inspiring. It was great to hear from all of the pioneers of the industry. Many people I have seen over the years and never really knew who they were. Everyone’s story was unique and yet echoed my own experience. One thing that was continually repeated was people’s desire and drive to work for change, for an alternative to the norm. That has also been a common theme throughout my work and personal life. The solid takeaway for me was to never stop working for something better and to always hold the standards of Organic to the highest level.

Maeci Brown, Quality Assurance and Inventory Control

I went to the “Urban Permaculture: Growing Food, Healthy People, and a Just Society in Cities and Towns” seminar. Toby Hemenway spoke about the basic concepts of permaculture and defined it as “a set of tools to create the end goal using resources that are close at hand and readily available.”  Creating a permaculture garden is about design and planning.  For example, when creating a permaculture home garden, zones and sectors are designed to place things that are used often or need the most attention in a location that is close or easily accessed, while things that need less attention are further away. This concept of zones can be applied to everyday life.  An everyday example he gave is how your office desk is set up: computer, pens, telephone -things you need readily all the time are within arm’s reach, while documents that need referencing once in a while may be a bit further away in a file cabinet. If wanting to reduce one’s carbon foot print in terms of food production, zone 1 would be the foods grown at home, zone 2 those grown by a local farm or garden, 3 could be from a grocery store further away, and zone 4 could be a foreign import. My big takeaway from Toby’s presentation was that permaculture is not a specific type of gardening, but a philosophy to apply to all aspects of life.

Ethan Abendroth, Director of Quality Control

I attended the “Dinosaurs In Produce” seminar and realized I am getting old as I found myself relating to many of the stories being told up on stage.  As I was sitting there and listening I very much was aware of what we are part of.  This was confirmed when completely unannounced, a mother attending the Eco Conference took the podium and commenced to extoll the virtues of organic food and how an organic diet has helped children she knows live healthier, fuller lives free of whatever ailments that could not be cured by a pill. Her message made me tear up as she gave thanks to each and every person up on the podium for their efforts in righting an un-right food system.  There is a fairly recent history here and all of the folks up on stage are all current and are still shaping the industry as we know it. I came away with an invigoration that I have not felt about my chosen career path in many a moon.

I also attended the “Citrus Greening” Seminar which is a big concern for all citrus growers. “The Asian citrus psyllid is a small insect that feeds on the leaves and stems of citrus trees. The insect is extremely dangerous because it can transmit a disease that is fatal for citrus. The deadly bacterial disease is called the citrus greening disease, and it has been found in Southern California, putting all citrus trees at risk. Once a tree is infected there is no cure and the tree will die. The best way to prevent the disease from killing citrus trees is to stop the Asian citrus psyllid.” Source: www.Californiacitrusthreat.org

Asian Citrus Psyllid www.californiacitrusthreat.org

Asian Citrus Psyllid
www.californiacitrusthreat.org

In the audience were growers Bill from Sundance and Garff Hathcock from CCH – both of which are heavy hitters in the organic citrus deal – the general feeling from these two is that this disease is no joke and they are VERY worried about this.

Jacob  Levy, Receiving and Quality Control

The Eco Conference gave me an opportunity to check out many other aspects of the trade and socialize with new people who all share a common interest- Organic produce. The conference offered many classes on agriculture that were interesting, including multiple discussions on plant diseases. I found that the conference was more than a series of classes, it was an opportunity to bond with fellow coworkers that I normally don’t interact with and talk to produce veterans and enthusiasts alike about their careers and other aspects of the trade.

One seminar I sat in on at Eco Conference was dedicated entirely to bacterial and fungal diseases within produce. One defect that is plaguing the Florida and Texas citrus market is “Asian Citrus Psyllid and Huanglongbing Disease” aka “Citrus greening”. There have only been a handful of infected trees here in California, however, the threat of citrus greening to our local orchards is very real. Citrus farmers and wholesalers will be affected by this devastating disease and the course was a discussion on how we can be successful in the future. The future it seems is ORGANIC. Conventional growers in Florida are being completely wiped out and organic growers are holding it together and pulling through the plague. With organic farming, instead of focusing on external fertilizers and GM pesticides, we put our energy into building up natural, beneficial enzymes and organic pesticides in the soil. So when pests and disease show themselves in the fields, the fields have the natural tools to fight them off. Conventional farmers are now looking to organic farmers for help to fight through this devastating issue. The Citrus greening problem is direct proof of the power of organic farming.

Eco-Farm is a great place to share ideas and thoughts with people involved in the organic agriculture movement. The gang from Earl’s always comes back excited to share our passion for organic food and agriculture. Stay up to date with organic seasonal produce as it arrives at Earl’s, organic news and Earl’s events on our website and Facebook page.

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