This was my eighth year attending the Virginia Association for Biological Farming (VABF) Annual Conference. This is by far my favorite farming conference each year. I met one of my best friends there the first year I went (we sat next to each other at lunch and discovered we lived right down the road from each other), so it is always a fun road trip each year with for the two of us riding together. After eight years, you do get to know who's who in organic / holistic / biologic / whateveryouwanttocallitnon-industrial farming in Virginia, and it's always fun to see familiar faces and meet new friends. This year's conference, which is organized by Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, was held in Danville and an awesome VSU conference center.
Eliot Coleman was the keynote speaker. Eliot, who has written several books, including "Four Season Harvest", is an avid organic gardener and is a pioneer in inventing really useful tools. He has a farm in Maine, where he and his wife, Barbara Damrosch, grow for market all year long. I heard both of them speak, and their presentations were so amazing. The pictures of their beautiful produce, grown in the dead of winter, were stunning and inspiring.
My friend Debbie and I went a day early so we could attend the pre-conference farm tour. We went to Maple Spring Gardens in North Carolina where we got to see a hightly successful small farm that grows vegetables, small fruits and flowers year round for several markets in North Carolina. Although it was in the 20's when we arrived in the morning, things heated up when the troupe gathered in the 30x120 greenhouses for a tour of springs-a-comin'! Beautiful farm...
I also attended sessions on Holistic High Density Livestock Grazing, Management of Food Safety Risks in Canning and Processing, Farm Scale Composting (offered by friend William Hale), and and a really wonderful lecture by Diane Endicott (of FRESH, the Movie) on Cooperative Marketing.
There is always THE MOST DELICIOUS MEAL, and Organic Food Festival, offered by all of the attendees, potluck-style. There was so much bounty, color, nutrition, flavor, beauty, care and love in that meal. I look forward to it every year! YUM! The conference always has to be held somewhere where they allow outside food to be served, so that can be a challenge sometimes. The food was all locally sourced for the remainder of the conference.
The conference wouldn't be the same without all the talented musicians who entertain us on Friday night. The impromptu hoedown is always accompanied by free local wines and tasty local treats. I stayed and watched the few who dared to dance and listened to the wonderful music until almost 11:30pm.
Its always great to visit the many wonderful vendors who attend the VABF Conference each year, and this year was no disappointment. This is always a great place to gather resources and talk with very knowledgeable people about all sorts of valuable programs, services, tools and educational items. I saw lots of my friends vending this year, including Cricket Rakita (who is an organic farm inspector), Cindy Conner, Ron Wood, and many other great people. I bought some books, some DVD's, some new tools and some cool new gardening gloves.
It is always so refreshing and invigorating to attend this conference, especially in the middle of winter when you think that spring will never, ever come again. Seeing all the pictures of lovely vegetables, fruits, berries, animals, eggs and the beautiful sunshine always inspires me to get my seed catalogs out and pour through them with my order form in hand and my garden plan laid out in front of me.
I hope to see you there next year!
for additional information on the Virginia Association for Biological Farming.
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