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EcoFarm 2015 Experience

The crew from Earl’s Organic came back from EcoFarm 2015 more inspired than ever to be working in the organic field. EcoFarm 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. Located in Pacific Grove, CA with over 60 workshops covering all aspects of ecological farming and food and farmer discussion groups it is hard to choose which ones to attend. Learn more about the EcoFarm experience from the eyes of a few Earl’s employees.

EcoFarm Display

EcoFarm Produce Display in Merrill Hall

 

Jessica Cole- Receiving and Quality Control

EcoFarm was a much different experience in comparison to the engineering/technical conferences I have been to in the past. The atmosphere was much more relaxed and I was able to walk the grounds, engage in conversation and attend seminars of my choosing. Everyone I met was incredibly friendly. I was astounded by the willingness and eagerness of people to both explain their interests as well as actively listen to mine – in general it seemed people were there to expand their understanding and increase connections throughout every aspect of the food chain.

The seminar I was most looking forward to attending was titled “Science Supporting Organic and Applied Organic Research Needs” presented by Jessica Shade of The Organic Center and Brise Tencer of Organic Farming Research Foundation. These two ladies were two of the most engaging presenters I have ever seen. They were passionate, knowledgeable and very articulate. It was interesting to see an overview of current studies ranging from soil content to disease susceptibility to nutritional benefits. I was encouraged to hear that there is a push to make grants a possibility, not just through universities, but for anyone so long as the results stay in the public domain. I believe having multiple paths for funding options and recipients will help to diversify the studies being performed and hopefully allow the results to be distributed to a larger audience. And through a cycle of exploration, communication and application an organic, more sustainable food chain becomes better understood and accepted.

Mary Rendon- Sales Associate

I was thoroughly pleased with my overall experience at the conference. One of the most intriguing seminars I attended was “The Dinosaurs rise again”. I was very impressed with the speakers. I know of Rick Lejeune, but not of his history and how he came into the business. It was very inspiring to hear how he started the Santa Cruz cooperative farms.  He spoke of his many travels and his start into the family business which is now the logistics part of the organic industry in the LA produce market. Next a gentlemen from Bob Scaman Goodness Greenness spoke and his story was very touching it actually brought tears to my eyes.  He thanked Cal-Organic for some advice he was given in the beginning of his lowest times in the business. That really made an impact on his personal life and his integrity and unity of the organic industry. Tom Mello from Amy Kitchen has known Earl for many years and I enjoyed hearing about how he built a great business. Lastly Sibella Kraus from S.A.G.E organization was full of lots of dynamic inspiring stories. She started at Chez Panisse working with Alice Waters and has spoken over the vast years with senators and Prince Charles. She spoke of her many travels, has worked at Greenleaf produce, and is also closely connected to the San Francisco Produce Market.

After working for almost 20 years in the organic industry I felt revitalized with an overwhelming feeling of appreciation for all that we represent to the farmers and the people we work with in every aspect of what we do every day. I also feel a sense of gratitude and loyalty as well. These people represent a presence that will hopefully inspire the youth of today to move forward in the organic business and help to make way for the growing changes on many levels, state wide and globally.

Anthony Mirisciotta- Sales Associate

Overall, EcoFarm was an excellent experience. I left the conference feeling really great about where I am and whom I work with! It was a great orientation for me into the California Ag world. Being from the East Coast produce/farming world I have always had preconceived notions of what the world of California produce/farming was about, so it was absolutely fantastic to see it and hear the stories firsthand. I was most interested in the dinosaurs of produce talk, to dig a little deeper into the history and world of California agriculture. Many great speakers were on the panel, to give a few different angles into the local history. My favorite was Rick Lejeune of Heath and Lejeune out of LA. He had a fabulous story of his start at the UCSC garden on campus and moving onto his attempt at farming with a group of friends in Alabama. He had great pictures that went along every step of his story, and he was a great speaker!

I have attended and even presented at NOFA conferences in New England in the recent past, so I am familiar with events similar to ECO.  I would have to say the energy and people at ECO seem much more positive and involved in the past, present and future.

Shane Terry- Quality Control Specialist

EcoFarm was everything I hoped it would be!  Farmers, distributors and retailers, all coming together to share their knowledge and passion for the organic farming movement and the industry it’s created.  Many of the seminars I sat in on were, of course, educational, but also inspiring and encouraging!

Being a native of Santa Cruz, CA, and now a resident of the East Bay, the organic farming movement and the types of people who champion it are part of my everyday experience, but EcoFarm has helped me better understand how small, dedicated pockets of the world, like my little Santa Cruz, have made waves throughout the food industry.  People all across the country are interested in making healthier choices for their bodies and families!  People want to make sustainable choices for the planet!  People want to buy organic produce!  At EcoFarm there is a culture of people both young and old, bringing their ideas together and revolutionizing the way the food industry works, from the field all the way to the checkout line.  We’re all proving that we can create a healthy, harmonious utopia here on Earth, and that taking part in that change can be profitable!  I left EcoFarm feeling very fortunate that the company I work for and the industry it thrives in are supporting my values and addressing my concerns for the Earth.

 Marie Koesnodihardjo- Accounting and Administrative Assistant

One of my favorite seminars from the Eco Farm Conference addressed the issue of sustainability in business. As a graduate of UC Berkeley in Conservation and Resource Studies, I was very curious to hear the conversation about sustainability at the corporate level.

The “What is a B Corp?” seminar included representatives from B Labs (the non-profit entity that certifies companies as B Corps), Veritable Vegetable (a certified B Corp), and a California farmer. I was surprised by how many questions from the audience were focused on the legality of B Corp in terms of ensuring that the values of the company withstand corporate acquisition. Cost was another major issue especially for farmers who see income fluctuations yearly and may not be able to afford the cost of maintaining certification.

In an industry that is already pushing for sustainable alternatives to modern industrialized practices, the conversation about sustainability isn’t whether or not to implement more sustainable practices. The B Corp Assessment is a free tool that allows corporations to assess corporate practices. If cost is an issue, then there is always the option to simply take the assessment and see how your company compares to your competitors.

Most prospective B Corps forget that the value of the certification is in being a part of a network of companies that is changing business as usual. As a recent college graduate, I was particularly drawn to Earl’s Organic Produce because there is a Sustainability Manager position and I felt that my personal values are reflected by the way Earl’s conducts business. While I believe Earl’s Organic Produce doesn’t need a certification to prove our commitment to sustainability and our core values there are many other ways Earl’s can benefit from becoming B Corp certified.

Overall, the Eco Farm conference showed me the range of businesses and people that are involved in the agriculture industry. I appreciated that the conference catered to “dinosaurs” of the industry as well as new farmers. The Asilomar Conference Grounds are a beautiful background for this gathering of people who are so passionate about what they do.

Each and every year Earl invites a new group of employees to join EcoFarm. We can all be inspired by the stories above and look forward to next years conference.

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