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Eco-Farm Conference February 1-4, 2012

After a whirlwind week of seminars, meetings and parties Eco-Farm 2012 has come and gone.  I last left you with my blog about the Eco-Farm Tour.  Thursday I hit the ground running at 8:30am with my first seminar National Organic Regulations where I learned about the National Organic Program(NOP) and their goal to insure organic integrity and protect the organic label.  

Next was the Global CSA Movement.  CSA’s are a great way to get a variety of fresh produce either delivered directly to your door or to pick up at a central location.  By purchasing produce from a CSA you are supporting local farmers while receiving produce fresh from the farm. CSA’s are called by many different names around the world and I listened to inspiring stories from farmers about the Participatory Guarantee System(PGS) in India,  Teikei in Japan and the AMAP in France.

We were lucky to have such amazing weather in Pacific Grove. As locals can attest, it can be foggy, cold and rainy during February.  I spent my lunch hour on the beach taking in some sun and watching the waves. Check out the Earl’s conference bag hanging from a bike on the beach.

Late afternoon the Extend the Harvest with Fermentation seminar was packed as we all squeezed into a tiny room to listen to Todd Champagne from Happy Girl Kitchen and Kathryn Lukas from Farmhouse Culture speak about kraut and pickling.  We explored the history and science of krauts, kimchis and pickles and even learned hands on how to make our own kraut at home. Yes, Todd is dressed as a pickle!

Thursday evening the gang from Earl’s had dinner at The C on the water front in Monterey followed by a party we co-hosted with Organically Grown Company, Alberts Source Organics and Heath and LeJeune.

Friday morning bright and early 3 Successful Organic Farmers spoke about what they do on their farms, why they do it and what they learned along the way.  Bob Cannard from Green String Farm in Petaluma, CA, a group from Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA and  Shinji Hashimoto from Ichijima Tanba city, Japan.

Midmorning I attended Keeping Organic Relevant where the discussion lead to the confusion between natural and organic in the consumers mind.  The term natural is not regulated and it doesn’t mean organic.  Consumers have an image that natural products are cheaper than organic and just as healthy for you. In fact organic products are often the same price as natural. Read your labels when shopping and check for the CCOF or USDA Organic  symbols. 

The final seminar of the day was the Farm Bill 2012 whose goal is to promote health and prevent hunger.  One topic discussed was that the term food stamp has a stigma attached to it and is no longer being used.  SNAP(Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)  is the new name and more and more farmers markets are accepting SNAP cards which is great.

Friday evening Earl hosted a dinner at Montrio Bistro in Monterey with vendors, business acquaintances and some of the Earl’s crew.  It was great to finally meet many of the people I work with and put a face to the name.

Saturday morning was the final day of the conference. Many of us attended one final seminar before heading back to the bay area. I went to the Farmer-Chef Relationship seminar, and as a food lover and home chef with an advertising background this was extremely interesting to me.  Tucker Taylor from French Laundry in Yountville, CA came from a banking background and decided he needed a career change.  While working on a farm in Atlanta, Tucker was introduced to Thomas Keller and moved out to California to start the French Laundry garden.  Cynthia Sandberg from Love Apple Farm in Santa Cruz started growing tomatoes for herself and now everything she grows is sold only to Manresa in Los Gatos, CA.

The 4 days I spent at Eco-Farm were truly inspirational and educational.  I heard directly from farmers around the world about the joys and frustrations of farming organically and it inspired me to buy a book about urban organic gardening.   To be in the company of over 1,500 people who all love food and care about the land as much as I do left me with a strong feeling of community. As I watched the closing ceremony on the beach I was already looking forward to the next Eco-Farm conference. 

Susan Simitz
Marketing Manager

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